The High Court in Lilongwe has ruled that former Justice Minister Raphael Kasambara, Pika Manondo and McDonald Kumwembe have a case to answer on the attempted assassination of former Budget Director, Paul Mphwiyo.
Judge Michael Mtambo ruled that the evidence tendered by the state had proved a prima facie case against the accused persons.
Mtambo, however, acquitted three other suspects Oswald Lutepo, Dauka Manondo and Robert Kadzuwa of conspiracy to commit murder charges saying the prosecution team did not present sufficient evidence implicating the accused persons.
Kasambara who is representing himself in the case has, however, been acquitted on the charge of attempted murder and will now only answer one charge of conspiracy to commit murder when the case enters defence stage.
On the other hand Pika Manondo has been found with a case to answer on both charges.
According to Mtambo the arguments as advanced by defence lawyer gift Mwakhwawa that his client Macdonald Kumwembe was in Mozambique during the shooting does not hold because evidence place him in Lilongwe.
“I don’t agree that Kumwembe left his phone with his wife, and that it was the wife who was communicating with his friends (suspects) on the night Mphwiyo was shot. My view is that cell phones are personal to holder. An average Malawian man cannot give his phone to his wife because he would want to protect his marriage, and the communication was also during odd hours,” said Mtambo attracting laughter from the jam-packed courtroom.
Commenting on Kasambara’s connection to the case, Mtambo disagreed with Kasambara that Mphwiyo position, as Budget Director was not powerful.
Said Mtambo: “Budget Director is not a useless position; it is a point of call for all government departments and ministries who need funding. In fact for selfish reasons, politicians including sitting presidents confer more powers to such a person so that the holder of the office should be diverting money for the politicians.”
He also pointed out that judging from the heated debate that ensued between Kasambara and Mphwiyo during cross-examination, it was clear that the two knew each other very well in their dealings.
According to Mtambo, the communication between Kasambara, Pika Manondo and Macdonald Kumwembe on day Mphwiyo was shot and days that followed showed panic and that a plan was being hatched and was later executed.
Mtambo also told the courtroom that evidence against Pika Manondo is overwhelming as he was placed in Area 43 where Mphwiyo resides on the night of the failed assassination plot according to testimony by Airtel experts.
Mtambo who seemed cheerful as he kept cracking jokes throughout said he based his ruling on factors such as identification evidence, miscarriage of justice because of mistaken identity and credibility of witnesses.
He also faulted Kasambara who earlier argued that there was no evidence before the court that the mobile numbers in the call logs belonged to the suspects.
“During cross examination no-one raised that issue or denied that the phones did not belong to the suspects, it will be a horror thought to expect Airtel to be recording voices of their customers,” said the Judge.
He also discarded evidence by hostile witness Charles Chalunda and testimony by an Immigration Officer, who he said brought before court documents prepared by other officers and therefore not conclusive evidence.
Meanwhile the court has denied an application by lawyer for Lutepo Oswald Mtupila that his client should be compensated for unlawfully being dragged to court.
“It is public knowledge that Lutepo is answering charges of money laundering in the courts worth billions of tax payer’s money. I therefore excise my discretion to give a refund because of the circumstances surrounding Lutepo,” said Mtambo.
The court is also expected to rule on an application by Defence lawyer Wapona Kita that his acquitted client Robert Kadzuwa, should be given back millions of kwacha that he was found with on the day he was apprehended alongside murder suspect Kumwembe.
The case will come before court on May 22 when the defence stage is expected to commence.
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