Mutharika, Vuwa objects to hiring of Mhone, Assani as prosecutors: Malawi treason case

Lawyer Kalekeni Kamphale on Tuesday told the Lilongwe Magistrate court that his two clients  Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) interim president Peter Mutharika, former Cabinet minister Symon Vuwa Kaunda are objecting he hiring of private lawyers Ishmael Wadi, Fahadi Assani, Gift Nankhuni and Ralph Mhone  to prosecute in the treason and perjury case without following procedures.

“My clients are objecting the appointment of all of them. I am not sure about Gift Nankhuni since he was not among those who were introduced during the last sitting,” said Kaphale.

“Mhone is not in good terms with Kaunda after the two contested against each other in the 2004 and 2009 general elections in which the latter emerged the victor in both occasions,” Kaphale told the court.

Kaphale further argued that Mhone could not have been appointed or he could have recused himself from the case since he and Vuwa Kaunda are “political enemies” who both competed for the Nkhata Bay Central parliamentary seat in 2004 and 2009 when Mhone lost the race.

He said the poll results ended in court after Mhone sued, alleging electoral fraud.

Kaphale added that Mhone still hold political ambitions hence he may be prejudice in handling the case .

He argued that the other lawyers were illegally hired.

“At the time of his appointment, Assani did not have a practicing license and the appointment was … violating of the Public Procurement Act,” added Kaphale.

Assani: Licence renewed
Assani: Licence renewed

Speaking to reporters after Resident Magistrate Ruth Chinangwa adjourned the case to Monday April 29, 2013, following a consensus of the two sides, Kaphale said: “The accused persons are entitled to a fair trial and that will mean every time they have to respond or make an address, have given a well thought out address and the adjournment allows opportunity for such approach to the case.”

He State failed to observe the Public Procurement Act as the process was not open to tender and did not involve the internal procurement committee.

Meanwhile, Assani a former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) now private practice lawyer has renewed his license.

The former state top prosecutor came in the limelight last month after it was revealed that he was amongst 177 lawyers who were practicing illegally in the country.

Assani, who earlier indicated he had no license because he was out of action for about two years, said he got his renewed license Monday this week at the High Court.

“I have renewed my license and this means I can now join my friends in the prosecution team on the treason case,” Assani said.

After the state hired Assani last month, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) came out in the open arguing the lawyer could not be heard by a court of law as he was unlicensed and such lawyers pose a great danger to the public.

The development also forced some sectors of the society to question government’s decision to appoint a lawyer whose license had expired to prosecute the treason suspects.

As at 20th March, 2013, MLS Executive Director, Paula Caetano, said Assani was one of the 177 illegal lawyers in Malawi out of the 350 who are registered.

But the Minister of Justice Ralph Kasambara argued then that the development had no negative implications in the prosecution of the treason case.

Kasambara said government made a professional decision by hiring Assani because he would still be useful by advising the prosecution team on the matter.

“When you are in court, three lawyers cannot speak at once, so it does not matter that Mr Assani has no licence and will not be standing in court,” Kasambara said last month.

Among those Assani is expected to prosecute include DPP Acting President Peter Mutharika, former ministers Goodall Gondwe, Henry Mussa, Vuwa Kaunda, Jean Kalirani, Patricia Kaliati, Kondwani Nankhumwa, Nicholas Dausi and former Chief Secretary to Office of the President and Cabinet, Bright Msaka and his deputy, Necton Mhura.

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