Malawi prosecutors object to bail for treason suspects

Malawi State prosecutors on Thursday morning asked the High Court in Lilongwe not to grant bail to opposition DPP acting president Peter Mutharika and former cabinet ministers charged with treason for an alleged coup plot last year following the sudden death of president Bingu wa Mutharika last April.

Defence lawyers for the group — which includes a government minister, several former ministers — urged High Court judge  Ivy Kamanga to release the  suspects on bail.

Lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale complained to the High Court that the “police are hiding information” from the defence, while insisting that treason was a “bailable offence”.

The prosecuting team which includes Apoche Itimu from the Ministry of Justice,  Ishmael Wadi, Ralph Mhone and Lughani Mautwa asked Justice Kamanga to dismiss the bail application from the suspect lawyers.

Kaliati: Seek bail
Kaliati with Kaphale on the right: Seek bail

Prosecuting lawyer Ralph Mhone argued that the group, which retains hefty political clout, could “jeopardise on-going investigations”.

He told the judge that the state would need “14-21 days to finish investigations”.

Kaphale said in an interview  that the government side is at times saying that they are through with their investigations such that they are ready with their evidence and trial.

“Sometimes they are arguing that they are ready with their evidence because they are saying they are through with their investigations, at some time they are also saying they are ready for trial in 14 days.

“It is a bit of an inconsistency, because I understand there was a commission of inquiry report which secured all the evidence,” explained Kaphale.

He said that the most important thing is that the constitution says that the suspects are presumed innocent until convicted, that is when they might be in custody.

An additional charge of inciting mutiny was lodged against Peter Mutharika, the late president’s brother, Chief Secretary to the Government Bright Msaka and Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe, who was Finance Minister in the Mutharika administration.

The three allegedly urged Army Commander General Henry Odillo to order “the army to just take over” to prevent Banda from becoming president, according to the inquiry report.

Other suspects are former ministers  Henry Mussa, Nicholas Dausi, Symon Vuwa Kaunda, Kondwani Nakhumwa, Patricial Kaliyati, Jean Kalirani and  former deputy chief secretary to government Necton Mhura.

One suspect Duncan Mwapatsa was granted bail Wednesday and he has not been formally charged.


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