Malawi treason case: No plea for Mutharika and others after preliminary objections, adjourned to April 16


In court: Suspects Peter Mutharika, Bright Msaka and Jean Kalilani
In court: Suspects Peter Mutharika, Bright Msaka and Jean Kalilani

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) interim president Peter Mutharika, former Cabinet ministers Goodall Gondwe, Jean Kalirani and interdicted Chief Secretary to Government Bright Msaka on Wednesday appeared at Lilongwe Magistrate Court but could not take plea on the charge of perjury after their attorney made preliminary objections.

The four also face treason charges alongside seven others.

Spokesperson for the Malawi’s Ministry of Justice, Apoche Itimu, said the filing of the perjury charges marked the beginning of the trial of people suspected to have committed various offences following the death of former president Bingu wa Mutharika.

Before the commencement of the hearing, defence lawyer Samuel Tembenu objected the transfer of the case which was already at the High Court to a magistrate court, arguing it is’breach of justice for our clients’.

Peter Mutharika: No plea yet
Peter Mutharika: No plea yet

He demanded to know why the state took the case back to Magistrates Court from the High Court. The defense called this ‘breach of justice for our clients’.

Tembenu told the court that, though the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) reserves authority to transfer any case from High Court to the Magistrate, but he or she is supposed to exercise such powers after informing the Legal Affairs Committee of the Malawi Parliament for the sake of transparency.

Tembenu, who accuse the State for“executive misconduct of court process”, therefore argued that with such irregularities it was not necessary for Magistrate Ruth Chinangwa to start hearing of the case.

Another defence lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale said after court that they objected to the trial in the Magistrate court from High Court, saying “there is potential for abuse of court process.”

Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Bruno Kalemba asked for more time to look into the arguments which brought by the defense counsel.

“We asked for more time enable the State to respond the issues. It’s only fair that the State should be given enough time to respond the issues,” he said in an interview.

The case was therefore adjourned to next Tuesday, April 16  a day before DPP’s convention where one of the accused, Professor Peter Mutharika is facing Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda for the party’s top seat.

Perjury is punishable by up to seven years, according to Section 104 of the Penal Code. On the other hand, death is the ultimate punishment for treason in terms of Section 38 of the Penal Code.

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