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Stop intimidating witnesses, lawyers— Healy Potani

RECESS — Lawyers interact during one of the hearings

The Constitutional Court hearing the ongoing presidential elections case in Lilongwe Friday morning warned members of the public against intimidating witnesses and attorneys involved in the case.

Chairperson of the five-judge panel hearing the case Healy Potani voiced the warning at the start of yesterday’s sitting following reports that Malawi Congress Party (MCP) sixth and last witness Daudi Suleman had indicated that he and his family were being intimidated.

Potani said the court, in chambers, advised Suleman to report the intimidation to law-enforcement agencies.

“We are also pleased to disclose that, in the meeting, the honourable Attorney General [Kalekeni Kaphale], who is a very high-ranking officer in the government on matters relating to the law, has made a very firm undertaking to see to it that government and security, law-enforcement machinery is set into motion to get to the bottom of the matter. We can only hope that he will live by his word.

“In the wake of the revelation made by Mr Suleman, this court would like to express in very clear terms that threatening, obstructing or interfering with a witness amounts to undermining the course of justice. It is an offence under Chapter 11 of the Penal Code, in particular Section 109. Undermining the course of justice is a recipe of anarchy. We, therefore, want to send a very strong warning to the parties and, indeed, the public at large to desist from issuing any threats to any of the witnesses that have testified or that will testify in this matter or else they will face the wrath of the law,” he said.

Potani further told the court that he had also received reports that some people were insulting lawyers within the court premises.

“This is also uncalled for and calls for condemnation in the strongest terms. We wish to make it known to those not in the know that lawyers are professionals, who are engaged by parties to a case and therefore they need not be identified with their clients. They are officers of the court, so they should be accorded that recognition,” Potani said.

On the issue of written submissions, Potani said the court had earlier indicated that it would give the lawyers eight days after finalising hearing for them to submit written submissions and had set December 17 for oral submissions.

He, however, said the court would give further guidance on the matter after a concern by Kaphale.

Malawi Electoral Commission declared President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party winner of May 21 Tripartite Elections.

However, MCP and UTM are challenging the presidential elections in court seeking nullification of the results.

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