The Blantyre Senior Resident Magistrate’s Court yesterday acquitted journalist Justice Mponda and awarded him K500 000 (about $1 250) in the extortion case.
Mponda was arrested in November last year and charged with attempt to extort which is contrary to Section 302(b) of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code.
People’s Party (PP) deputy administrative secretary Joseph Chikwemba reported to police that Mponda was trying to extort K500 000 after an online publication, Malawi Voice, had written negative articles against President Joyce Banda and her family.
Chikwemba asked Mponda to meet him in Limbe to get the money where in the process, he was arrested.
In his ruling, senior resident magistrate Viva Nyimba pointed lack of evidence, saying Mponda was contracted to carry out an assignment and that the money was his payment.
He said there was no dispute that Mponda was asked to remove the two articles and that he demanded K500 000 for removing both.
“That was not extortion but a contract to remove the two articles. I, therefore, find no evidence of extortion and rule that Mr. Mponda will take the money because there was a contractual agreement,” said Nyimba.
The magistrate also attacked the prosecution for not bringing Geoff Kachale, who was a key witness, to court as per court’s request, saying that weakened the whole case.
Asked why the State failed to bring Kachale, State advocate Jailos Chafunsa said the prosecution had discretion on who to bring to testify. He, however, added that the State will sit down and decide whether to appeal or not.
Defence lawyer Chancy Gondwe was, however, satisfied with the ruling.