In Malawi, the treason case against vice president Cassim Chilumpha took another turn Thursday with the vice president refusing, for the second time, to enter a plea. He cited a defect in the charge sheet brought against him by the state. The defense team described the case against Chilumpha as hypothetical claiming the state failed to furnish the vice president with the right particulars of the case. But the state agued that the charges contained enough particulars for the vice president to enter a plea.
Fahad Assani said the vice president did not enter a plea because the charges against Chilumpha were not specific.
“We objected to the pleas being taken primarily because firstly, the charges are not specific in the particulars in which the laws of this country require. What we are saying in this regard is that the charges are in general terms without mentioning places where these things were taking place, the date and also the persons with whom the vice president was conspiring with because they are just mentioning of persons unknown,” he said.
Assani said the state erred by not declaring the persons allegedly involved in the assassination plot with the vice president.
“You cannot conspire with persons unknown because that is now how charges are supposed to be drafted. At the same time, the charges have what we call “duplicity” whereby one kind of event is being said to attract two charges. They should choose either the treason charge or the murder charge…because the two things are actually based on the same fact,” Assani noted.
He said there was no way the vice president could enter a plea when there was an error in the charges against him.
“You cannot charge one fact twice, you have to charge it once. You have to choose which one you think you have evidence to prove...you can’t do that and expect that one would plea to them. You can either be charged, for example, when you are being accused of raping a woman, with rape but not with rape and indecent assault. You have to choose one because you are talking about one and only one incident,” Assani said.
He said the state contradicted itself by claiming it knew the persons who conspired with the vice president to allegedly assassinate President Bingu Wa Mutharika while at the same time telling the court that those people are unknown.
“What we said is the same Mr. Phoya (former minister of justice) at the very beginning, issued a press release in which he said they already have the witnesses… persons who were in the former apartheid South Africa who were contracted to kill the president. But now in the charge, they are saying persons unknown. IF they are not lying, then what is it? In one breath they say we know them, then they go to court and say we don’t know them because that is what this charge is saying,” Assani said.