Lilongwe Senior resident magistrate Patrick Chirwa has ruled that the extradition case which Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) leader Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary are answering cannot proceed as civil matter as requested by legal team of the Bushiris but as criminal case.
But Chirwa said the case itself will not determine the guilt of Bushiri and his wife. Chirwa said the hearing shall take the route of a ‘miscellaneous criminal’ case. Furthermore, Magistrate Chirwa has also ordered the state to provide “duly certified” documents and records pertaining to the cases in South Africa and the SADC Treaty in seven days time. Chirwa underlined that it is important for the state to do so as it will help the defence to prepare their arguments.
Bushiri’s lawyer Mr Wapona Kita had earlier requested the Court that they be furnished with all extradition details as supplied to the Ministry of Justice and Director of Public Prosecutions by the South African government. The lawyers also requested the gazetted SADC extradition treaty.
During the proceedings, Bushiri’s legal team also raised an issue to have witnesses from South Africa, whose statements are included in the extradition documents, to be summoned to Malawi, to ensure a fair hearing, “ if indeed they do exist.”
But Director of Public Prosecutions Dr Steven Kayuni argued that this would subject the Bushiris to two trials and that the documents sent by South Africa should be treated as evidence. Kayuni said “we believe that preliminary inquiry’s have specific way in which they are processes.”
The court is expected to rule on the preliminary objections on Monday 29 March.
On the ruling that the extradition matter would continue to be treated as a criminal case, top prosecutor Kayuni said that has great signfiance, saying a criminal matter is processed faster than a civil matter. “The issues before the honourable court, the court has already decided, they have criminal elements,” said Kayuni.
Government wants to extradite the Bushiris to South Africa following a request from the South African Government to prosecute the two for various criminal offences.
The couple fled South Africa last year while on bail, claiming their lives were in danger.