MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s prominent lawyer Ralph Kasambara who is also former attorney general on Tuesday managed to get court bail despite the ongoing Judiciary support staff strike that has paralysed Malawi’s justice delivery system for six weeks now.
Also expected to walk to temporary freedom were KasambaraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s associatesÃ¢â‚¬â€Arthur Chikankheni, Mayamiko Kadango, Brian Magoya, Patrick Gadama and Ali KakaÃ¢â‚¬â€who were arrested with him on Monday.
But at the time of the bail late Tuesday afternoon, the six were on remand at Chichiri Maximum Security Prison.
They are being accused of assaulting three men Kasambara claimed attempted to assassinate him.
The six spent Monday night in custody at Blantyre Police Station and were moved to Chichiri Prison in Blantyre on Tuesday.
Jonathan Kara, one of the lawyers representing Kasambara and his associates, confirmed in an interview at 4.11 pm on Tuesday that Blantyre principal resident magistrate Innocent Nebi granted bail to his clients.
But Kara said there were still other procedures to be fulfilled before Kasambara and his colleagues could be released from custody.
“I would love for the six men to be released today [Wednesday], but there are no guarantees. We still have to look at the conditions of the bail and sureties,” said Kara.
The Kasambara court bail comes against a background of a strike by Judiciary support staff which has led to congestion in police cells and prisons due to suspectsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ lack of access to justice following the virtual closure of the courts.
In some cases, in the course of the Judiciary strike, some suspects have been granted police bail on minor offences.
Asked how they managed to obtain the court bail amidst the strike, Kara said KasambaraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s legal team approached the court and “the normal channels [in applying for bail] were followed and we were granted bail.”
Earlier Tuesday, Blantyre Police Station premises were crowded with lawyers, journalists, politicians, friends, family and other well-wishers who offered support to Kasambara and his associates.
The earlier unconditional release of KasambaraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s three suspected assassins was the hot topic among the sympathisers who called for the suspectsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ arrest and an investigation.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) president John-Gift Mwakhwawa expressed shock at how someone defending oneself against alleged assailants would turn into a suspect.
Said Mwakhwawa: “I would understand if the detention was just to gather statements from those concerned, but from the look of things, the detention is beyond the police who might be acting on instructions from some politician.”
United Democratic Front (UDF) director of research Humphrey Mvula, who was in the company of the partyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s deputy secretary general Hophmally Makande and interim president Friday Jumbe at the police station, said it was appalling to see the would-be suspects left scot-free whereas the victims were locked up.
Said Mvula: “[Information and Civic Education Minister Patricia] KaliatiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s theory is both serious and laughable because the three [suspected assassins] are hugely built people who cannot be overpowered by Kasambara for any reason.”
Kaliati on Tuesday defended the three freed suspects on local private radio Zodiak Broadcasting Station, claiming they were beaten for refusing KasambaraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s advances for a sexual encounter.
But Kasambara said in an interview on Tuesday he could not waste his time arguing with someone who he said wants to invent facts. He claimed the three assailants confessed they went to his offices to attack him and they gave the same statements to police.
Blantyre Police spokesperson Beatrice Mikuwa said she was yet to get the names of the three, whom she said were being treated at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital and had not been charged.
Ã¢â‚¬â€The strike by Judiciary support staff started on January 9 2012. Since then, there is no official record of a court sitting or a decision such as court bail being made.
Ã¢â‚¬â€Ralph Kasambara is a private practice lawyer who also served as Attorney General during President Bingu wa MutharikaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first term of office.
Ã¢â‚¬â€His arrest on Monday came two days after he called for the PresidentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s resignation for failing to effectively run the country.