Mutharika, ‘Malawi midnight six’ plead not guilty to treason charges

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president and 2014 torch bearer Peter Mutharika and the eight others  have pleaded not guilty to various counts of treason-related charges at Lilongwe High Court.

Mutharika, former Cabinet ministers Goodall Gondwe, Symon Vuwa Kaunda, Patricia Kaliati and Jean Kalirani; former chief secretary to the government Bright Msaka; former deputy ministers Kondwani Nankhumwa and Nicholas Dausi and former deputy chief secretary to the government Necton Mhura appeared on Thursday at the High Court in Lilongwe before Justice Ivy Kamanga.

They are being accused of attempting to overthrow the government in 2012 .

Among others, Mutharika and the other accused are being suspected that they solicited and incited the Malawi Defence Force through General Henry Odillo to take over the lawfully constituted state.

'Midnight six': In court for treason trial
‘Midnight six’: In court for treason trial

The state is also suspecting that the accused tried to conceal the death of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika to facillitate the take over of the leadership.

Soon after the court commenced, six months after being granted bail, One member of the defence’s legal team, Kalekeni Kaphale,  submitted preliminary objections to the charge sheet the defence was served, arguing g it was
not formal but just a dummy or an advanced one.

“We just want to bring to the attention of the court that the defence is not yet served with the formal charge sheet, which has the signature of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Perharps if we are served with it now, we will need an hour to take a look at it and compare notes with have we have here.

“Your honour, this is a criminal case and we need to be careful,” he said.

Rising on the issue, Director of Public Prosecution Bruno Kalemba argued that the formal charge sheet is the same and the signing happens during the session.

“But lest be assured that the formal charge sheet it is the same as it appears with the so called dummy charge sheet, but if the defence feels that without having it before hand will jeorpadise with the proceedings, then for the sake of fair trial they should be accorded that chance,” he said.

Kaphale counter argued that the dummy charge sheet has no particulars of the accused persons saying, “we don’t know what else is not there.”

After some minutes, Justice Ivy Kamanga ruled that the court should adjourn for 30 minutes to allow the defence to go through the formal charge sheet.

After court resumed, one by one stood up before Justice Kamanga to provide their particulars before they stood up together for the charge to be read.

They all pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

Mutharika is DPP’s presidential candidate in the 2014 Tripartite Elections and his conviction on treason charges could jeopardise his chances of contesting.

The DPP leader and others were jointly charged on the count of disobedience of statutory duty for reportedly denying that the then vice-president Joyce Banda had automatically become President on the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika.

Besides treason, other charges against the group include inciting a mutiny, breach of trust and conspiracy to commit a felony.

The DPP heavyweights were arrested in March this year following revelations in the commission of inquiry report into circumstances relating to Bingu’s death found that they took part in concealing his death from Malawians in an attempt to prevent the vice-president from assuming power.

Also available at the court were DPP MPs Kingsley Namakhwa, Getrude Maseko, Daniel Liwimbe among others.   Former first lady Callista Mutharika was also at the hearing.—(Additional reporting by Wanga Gwede, Nyasa Times)

On court bench: The midnight six
On court bench: The midnight six
Callista Mutharika in court to follow the case
Callista Mutharika in court to follow the case

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