By Rebecca Chimjeka
High Court Judge Fiona Mwale i s e x p e c t e d , on December 22, to rule on the Lilongwe Magistrate court’s decision to unconditionally release Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary.
Last month, Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate Viva Nyimba released the Bushiris unconditionally after arguing that the police erred in arresting them in the absence of a formal extradition request from South Africa and without the Homeland Security Minister signing for the arrest as required by law.
The Bushiris are wanted on charges of theft and money laundering in South Africa. Meanwhile, Homeland Security Minister Richard Chimwendo Banda has signed extradition papers for the Bushiris’ extradition, sources have confided in Times.
This means the state can now commence the Bushiris’ extradition process in court. On yesterday’s court hearing, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steve Kayuni said the State argued on preliminary issues that lawyers for the Bushiris raised during the initial hearing at the magistrate court.
“We raised issues on whether the DPP can do the extradition or the Attorney General; whether extradition is a criminal proceeding and whether the judge in the criminal division has [criminal] jurisdiction as opposed to civil jurisdiction in accordance with the Courts Act,” Kayuni said.
Kayuni told the court that what happened in the subordinate court had nothing to do with extradition. He argued that, during the hearing in the subordinate court, the State was only asking the court to further detain the Bushiris while waiting for a formal request for extradition because, at that material point in time, the extradition-trigger mechanism had not been initiated.
The DPP further told the court that extradition laws were clear on step-by-step trigger mechanisms for an extradition agreement with a requesting state, diplomatic process for documents, authority to proceed by Cabinet minister—submitting that all these mechanisms had not been triggered in November last month.
Lawyer for the Bushiri couple, Wapona Kita, also confirmed that he appeared in court, adding that he was ready to defend his clients. Kita has since asked the State not to re-arrest the Bushiris after Chimwendo Banda has pended his signature to the extradition papers. He said it would be important to wait for the High Court to make its determination on the matter.
“We appeared before the High Court and made objections to the application by the State for criminal review of the decision of the magistrate court. The court has reserved its ruling to December 22 2020,” Kita said.
Bushiri and his wife Mary fled from South Africa to Malawi in November, violating bail conditions that were set after they were arrested in connection with a multimillion-dollar money laundering case Upon arrival in Malawi last month, Bushiri said he had come back to Malawi to seek justice and protection, claiming that his life was in danger in the Rainbow Nation.