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Malawi: VP Not Immune to Criminal Prosecution


In Malawi, a constitutional court in Blantyre has ruled that Vice President Cassim Chilumpha has no immunity from criminal prosecution. The Vice President is facing treason charges for allegedly plotting to assassinate president Bingu Wa Mutharika. His defense had argued that Malawi’s Constitution treats the President and the Vice President, as equal under the law. In that view, the defense contended that Vice President Chilumpha is immune from criminal prosecution, like the President is.

Viva Nyimba is Chilumpha’s lead attorney. He spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the court’s ruling.

“The ruling was to the issue that the Vice President doesn’t have immunity at all so he can proceed for trial in the criminal court. However, there were important issues that came up namely, that the evidence, and the tape recording that the state has done against the Vice President were regarded as illegal and unconstitutional. And we feel that is a big breakthrough in our case… and the court said the Vice President needed to be compensated for that,” he said.

Nyimba explains Chilumpha’s reaction after the court’s judgment.

“Basically the Vice President was very surprised that the court came up with that type of judgment. Because he thought that maybe the court didn’t go through all our argument. But when we told him that the issue was basically only the recording which the state had done, which they alleged to have done, the court agreed with us that the court agreed with our argument that yes, this was a contravention of his constitutional right on the right of privacy. He was a bit satisfied,” Nyimba noted.

He says they are waiting for a copy of the judgment before they will know what to do next.

“The judgment copy has not yet been given to us. We were just listening in what was being read to us and after we go through the whole written judgment, then we are going to make consideration whether to appeal or not,” he said.

Nyimba says they are waiting for the court appointed date for the states case of treason against the Vice President.

“Basically what the court also said is that we must be served with all the necessary evidence within fourteen days from the date the judgment of the constitutional court was delivered. So we are just waiting for all those things,” he said.

Nyimba says because the court has thrown out the state’s main evidence against Chilumpha; the state should discontinue with case.

“We only hope that the case may not proceed because the fundamental issue was I think based by the constitutional court that the evidence was illegally obtained. And we believe that if the state was mindful, they may not even proceed with the case, unless they may have other evidence apart from the tape recordings which they had obtained from the Vice President Illegally,” he said.

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