The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has conceded that his office is under pressure to expedite the extradition trial of Prophet Shepherd Bushiri so as to uphold the diplomatic relationship between Malawi and South Africa.
In a February 25 letter asking for the transfer of proceedings which Nyasa Times has seen, DPP Steve Kayuni asks the Chief Resident Magistrate to assign the case to another magistrate following the sudden illness of presiding magistrate Viva Nyimba.
“Considering the nature of the matter, sensitivities touching on diplomatic relations between the Republic of Malawi and Republic of South Africa, the hearing was to be expedited…In the spirit of the expedited hearing, we humbly pray for a transfer of the file to another Court so that the hearing should proceed accordingly,” the letter reads.
Following the letter, Chief Resident Magistrate Patrick Chirwa assigned himself the case.
However, a lawyer who opted for anonymity, told Nyasa Times that the DPP’s letter, confessing external forces in the trial, is both irregular and compromises the independence of the court, let alone the judiciary.
“As we might all know from primary school, the Malawi constitution is framed in such a way that each of the three arms of government are independent of each other. However, the DPP’s letter to the CRM implies that there are undue and external influences to have this case expedited.
“This is unlawful and it risks compromising the independence of the court in discharging its duties and in ensuring the fair trial. Politicians should stay of this case and let the courts do their job to the best of the capabilities,” said the lawyer.
The DPP’s letter was a bone of contention in the recursion case last Monday where Bushiri’s lawyer Wapona Kita asked the presiding magistrate court to disregard the request by the State, arguing that it had been irregularly filed as the defence was not copied as per law.
However, Magistrate Chirwa threw out both Kita’s application and his earlier request for the magistrate to recuse himself on grounds of bias as he has earlier issued as contentious warrant of arrest.
The legality of the warrant of arrest if being contested in the High Court, where Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda reserved his ruling on the matter on Tuesday.
In his ruling, Chirwa rebuffed Bushiri lawyers’ application saying the lawyers failed to prove that he would be biased.
He said he issued the warrant of arrest against the Bushiris last month because he was the only magistrate available. Chirwa also defended the transfer of the case, saying Nyimba fell ill and the law was followed in transferring the case.
Meanwhile, Bushiri’s lawyer Wapona Kita has filed another application in which he wants the court to state whether the extradition case will be handled as a civil or criminal case.
Bushiri and his wife are fighting against their extradition to South Africa where they face several charges, including money laundering and fraud.
They were arrested in South Africa last year and were later released on bail but they fled the country in November.
But the pair claim they will not receive a fair and just trial in South Africa
Bushiri and his wife Mary return to court on Monday for a continuation of their extradition case.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :