The Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court yesterday started hearing the extradition of Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) leader Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, after chief resident magistrate Patrick Chirwa dismissed an application by the couple for the magistrate to recuse himself.
The Bushiris had alleged that the magistrate was biased against the couple after he allegedly issued a warrant of arrest for the couple.
In his ruling, Chirwa defended his issuing of the warrant of arrest, saying he did it in accordance with the rule of law and that he will continue hearing the extradition application case. The case has since been adjourned to Monday at 2pm.
Earlier, Bushiris lawyer Wapona Kita told the court the couple was blindsided when the State requested the court that “to maintain diplomatic ties with South Africa” the case was to be moved from Viva Nyimba, who is currently unwell, to another magistrate.
The lawyer said the defence was neither copied nor alerted of the request.
Said Kita: “The court illegally issued a warrant of arrest against earlier decisions. The court transferred the matter at the request of the State without following procedure and for reasons which are not impartial. For these reasons, there is a likelihood of bias.”
The court issued a awarrant of arrest for the Bushiris on January 6 2021 but they escaped police custody in accordance with an earlier ruling by the court that faulted their initial arrest.
According to the extradition request details, South Africa wants to continue prosecuting the couple for theft, fraud, forgery and failing to comply with bail conditions after the couple escaped from that country.
The prosecutors in South Africa also want to try Shepherd Bushiri for three additional counts of rape.
The ECG later issued a statement announcing he returned to Malawi because his life was in danger and he did not expect to get a fair trial in South Africa.