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Malawian Judge Summons Prosecutors and Defense in VP’s Treason Case

The Judge presiding over the treason case against Malawi’s Vice President Cassim Chilumpha has summoned both the defense team and prosecutors to appear in court Friday. Sources say the judge wants to find out why the case has stalled for almost three months now. The prosecutor had asked the court for a week’s recess but has taken three months. Chilumpha and his co-accused and business associate Yusuf Matumula were arrested on April 24 last year for plotting to assassinate President Bingu Wa Mutharika. The defense team blames government prosecutors for what they describe as playing “delay tactics”. But the government has denied the allegations.

Fahad Assani is the lead attorney for Vice President Chilumpha. From the commercial capital, Blantyre he talked with VOA about the judges’ summon.

“It’s quite true that on Friday, we will be meeting the judge in chambers, that’s the state lawyers as well as the defense lawyers. Our indication is that the judge probably would want to know the way the case is progressing because if you will remember, the last time we were in court, the state had asked for a week in order for them to prepare some few things and then move on with the case,” Assani said.

He said the state has taken too much time to prepare for the treason case against the vice president.

“Now, one week has turned into three months at the same time we also have made an application ourselves challenging the ministers decision to have the case tried without a jury. And this has brought a lot of stalling in terms of progress on the case. The judge wants to know how the should carried forward, so as to see there is some progress on it,” he noted

Assani said he does not want to speculate on the rationale behind the judges’ summon.

“We are not very sure what the judge would be asking, and we know that immediately the judge has made his statements known, we would be able to deal with them head on immediately. So it would be difficult on our part to speculate because we have no idea as to why he has summoned that we should meet,” he said.

Assani said the state prosecutors have reneged on promises made to the defense team to supply them with evidence against the vice president.

“We have seen actually that after the request for one week adjournment was accepted by the court, there is also a tentative program, which the state had stated in terms of what they would do after a week and up to the time when the trial was supposed to begin on the 16th of April. Now, none of the promises the state had made to us since for example sharing of sharing the evidence, giving us the material list they have so that we can prepare for the defense has happened so far. So, we are still in darkness as to how the case would be progressing or proceeding,” Assani noted.

Assani said the defense is waiting for a constitutional court to set a date to hear the case that challenges the justice minister’s directive to have a judge, not a jury, hear the treason case against Vice President Chilumpha.

“The constitutional court is yet to set a date for the hearing for that application because all that had happened is the documentation has been given to the court… it is very critical that the issue of jury or no jury be decided upon before the actual trial of treason begins,” he pointed out.