Legal expert calls for equality in prosecution of the poor and the rich

Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima arrested on corruption charges

A human rights lawyer has pleaded with criminal justice authorities to exercise equality in prosecution of the poor and the rich following the case of Vice President Saulos Chilima’s case who got interrogated, charged and granted bail on the same day.

The Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Friday arrested Vice President Dr Chilima for allegedly receiving US$280,000 from Zuneth Sattar as reward for assisting companies of the businessman to get contracts in government.

Few hours after his arrest, the vice president was granted bail by the Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate Court saying there was no reason for him to be remanded when the State has told the court that the case will be committed to the Financial Crimes Division of the High Court.

Commenting on the matter on human rights perspective, a lecturer at the University of Malawi Alexious Kamangila, while speaking to South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), said there are some lessons to be taken from Chilima’s arrest.

Kamangila said from the matter, it has been learnt that it is possible for a suspect of serious crimes to be interrogated, charged and released on bail in a day, a thing which he said has not been happening in other cases.

He then pointed out that from now onwards, authorities should make sure that the treatment of Vice President Chilima has received, should also be applied to every Malawian who is facing the law.

“As a human rights person, I will also be much interested to comment on what happened today, whereby we saw the Vice President being taken for interrogation today, being taken to court on the same day and being granted bail on the same day.

“I think everyone is looking forward to seeing this kind of practices not only to people in power or people with influence, but to each and every Malawian whereby pre-trial detention should not be happening as it happens most of the times,” said Kamangila.

Kamangila emphasized that Section 42 of the Constitution of Malawi provides for 48 hours not as desirable period but as condition that even in the worst case scenario, one should not be kept for over 48 hours without being taken to court.

“What we see in practice is that the Police seem to think it’s fine to keep people unless they don’t go beyond 48 hours falling on a working day, it is wrong. Again on bail, everyone should be granted bail unless the interest of Justice as proven by the State, demands detention. This means, one should be granted bail unless there are serious reasons, as proven by the State not to. The law detest pre-trial detention,” he added.

Kamangila further mentioned that there is need for consistency in arresting the ‘big fish’ suspected of corrupt practices but he was quick to say if there shall be no progress on these arrests, it may cost the country even more.