By Jameson Chauluka
High Court Judge John Chirwa has dismissed with costs Thomson Mpinganjira’s application to be released on bail pending appeal.
Mpinganjira, who was not physically present in court yesterday, is serving a nine-year jail term after he was convicted of attempting to bribe judges who heard the presidential election case to rule in favour of former president Peter Mutharika and the Malawi Electoral Commission.
Chirwa dismissed all the grounds for Mpinganjira’s application such as that the appeal would likely take time before it was heard, the convict was too old and not in good health and that he would likely succeed at the appeal.
Mpinganjira’s lawyer Alex Nampota said he would ask his client for guidance on the way forward.
“In totality, the court has dismissed the application and ordered that Dr Mpinganjira be kept in custody until his appeal is heard. We, as lawyers, do what our clients tell us; so, I will talk to Dr Mpinganjira for guidance on the way forward,” he said.
Judge Dorothy DeGabriele sentenced Mpinganjira to nine years imprisonment on October 5 this year.
Nampota said, out of the eight justices of Appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeal, four were compromised as they were witnesses in the case before DeGabriele and could, therefore, not hear the appeal now that they are at the Supreme Court of Appeal.
He said there was a directive made in 2010 by the Chief Justice that all matters in the Supreme Court of Appeal should be heard by a full bench but that, with exceptions, a case could be heard by seven Justices of Appeal.
This, he said, meant that it was likely going to be impractical for the Supreme Court of Appeal to have seven or nine Justices of Appeal who have not been involved with Mpinganjira’s case to hear the appeal in the near future.
Anti-Corruption Bureau lawyer Victor Chiwala hailed the ruling, saying it was what they expected.
“We said that we want convicts to be serving their sentences. We said there were no reasons to release Mr Mpinganjira on bail and we are glad the court agreed with us,” he said.