Attorneys for Malawi’s Vice President Cassim Chilumpha have described as strange and outrageous allegations that they are delaying the vice president’s treason trial. This comes after President Bingu Wa Mutharika blamed the vice president’s defense team for what he called its calculated attempt to frustrate the government’s treason case against the vice president. Chilumpha and others are charged with plotting to assassinate President Mutharika and overthrow his government, a charge the vice president denies.
Mutharika also questions why the vice president was given bail when he was facing such serious charges. Meanwhile, an application awaiting action in the vice president’s treason case is a state request to bar the media from taking pictures of the alleged assassins (who were said to have been hired by Chilumpha). The state is also asking that media coverage be limited to a public address system outside the court.
From Tambala village in Malawi Chilumpha lead attorney Fahad Assani tells reporter Peter Clottey that Mutharika’s allegations are reprehensible.
“My initial reaction is that it’s quite strange for the state president to be making such comments, which in my view express ignorance on his part. Firstly, our one president ought to know very well in the region we’ve had treason cases getting bail in Zimbabwe as well as in Uganda. As far as our constitution is concerned, bail is a right, and it is only the state that has to bring up facts and legal issues, which would not allow the court to grant bail. Now, if the court granted bail it means they were convinced that this is a proper case for granting bail,” Assani noted.
He said the president’s accusations leveled against Chilumpha’s defense team are misplaced.
“The defense team could not have just lived without defending the vice president. When the president ordered these political arrests on his second citizen, and on the way they made so many errors constitutionally, we have challenged those constitutional problems because in this country we would like to see that people’s rights, including those of the vice president, are protected,” he said.
Assani said it was improper for President Mutharika to comment on an ongoing legal case against the vice president.
“It’s very strange for the president to be making these remarks on the matter, which is in the court. But that aside, we have a president who has always wanted to influence the courts through his threats, talking of things that he is not conversant with. Fortunately, we have a situation where the courts have disagreed with him. But whenever they disagreed with him, he always says the opposition for example is corrupting the judges. Now, this is the whole problem we have with our leadership. And I hope our leadership will learn to shut up on matters of this nature,” Assani said.
He accused President Mutharika-led government of arresting Malawians opposing his administration.
“We brought before the court at the very beginning when the vice president was arrested, issues of violations of the right to privacy of the vice president. And the constitutional court said that if this so-called taped evidence exists, this evidence cannot be used in the court of law because it was in violation of section 21 of our constitution that guarantees the right to privacy. Secondly, we are also looking at the time when the vice president being charged, no evidence existed or was put before him so that he could properly make response to whatever charge were laid against him. And the court also agreed with us that the interrogations or the interviews of the vice president were constitutionally flawed, such that the state ought to start all over again,” he pointed out.