The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has said it is equally shocked with the midnight order discharging the arrest of business mogul Thom Mpinganjira granted by the Zomba Principal Resident Magistrate Ben Chitsakamile.
Mpinganjira arrested over judges bribery attempts claim but a court released him midnight
Mpinganjira was arrested Wednesday by Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) in connection to the alleged judge bribery attempt in the presidential election nullification petition case,
In a statement made available to Nyasa Times signed by the coalition's national chairpersonTimothy Mtambo and his deputy Gift Trapence, HRDC says what has happened has no precedence in Malawi and can only happen in a banana republic and not in a country that follows rule of law.
"What is even more absurd is that the order for Mpinganjira's release came from Zomba. It is hard to make sense of the reasoning behind travelling to Zomba in the middle of the night to procure an illegitimate order in the darkness of the night in order to release from custody a person facing charges of trying to bribe Justices of the Constitutional Court" reads part of the statement.
HRDC says it shares the conerns raised by ACB Director Renneck Matemba regarding the "callous" conduct by the Zomba magistrate Benedicto Chitsakamile.
The rights body has called Malawians of good will to reject "all attempts to undermine our justice system through crooked means".
"Law enforcement investigations should be completed without political interference, the law should apply equally to everyone, and attempts to obstruct the delivery of justice must be rejected" reads the statement.
HRDC has since demanded that Mpinganjira be re-arrested and all other people impliacted in the judges' bribery case.
" This is a moment for the judiciary to demonstrate that while it holds other people accountable, it is also going to hold itself accountable. We condemn the conduct of this Magistrate and his dark order to release Mpinganjira," says HRDC.
The organisation has also demanded that the Judicial Service Commission should probe magistrate Chitsakamile for issuing the "illegal" order and his general conduct and that the judiciary should put in place measues to curb judge shopping cases.
HRDC has also demaded that the Law Society of Malawi should investigate the magistrate over the matter, including cases he has handled previosuly when he was serving as a lawyer.
The rights organisation has since threatened to mobilise Malawians for "mother all demonstrations" should Mpinganira not be re-arrested and has called Malawians of good will to unite to defend integrity of institutions and ensure that the Juges bribery case reaches its logical conclusion.
In the elections case, two of the presidential candidates in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections--UTM Party's Saulos Chilima (the first petitioner) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate Lazarus Chakwera (the second petitioner)--want the court to nullify presidential election results over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system.
Incumbent President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who was declared winner of the elections, is the first respondent with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) as the second respondent.
The five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court concluded hearing the matter on December 20 2019 and indicated that they would deliver their judgement within 45 days from that date.
The judges hearing the case are Healey Potani, Ivy Kamanga, Dingiswayo Madise, Redson Kapindu and Mike Tembo. Meanwhile, High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Agnes Patemba has indicated that judgement in the elections case would be delivered between January 27 and February 3 2019.