The extradition case of Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) leader Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary took a different turn with the State objecting the defence’s proposal to bring the couple’s South African accusers before the Malawi court.
Bushiri’s lawyer Wapona Kita told Lilongwe chief resident magistrate Patrick Chirwa that, according to procedures of an extradition hearing, witnesses are supposed to be paraded for authentication of evidence contained in the extradition request.
But lead State prosecutor Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Steve Kayuni argued that although the Bushiris want the State to prove the witnesses exist and the evidence is sufficient, bringing witnesses as evidence would violate the Bushiris’ rights by subjecting them to two trials.
He said: “The fact is that the case will be heard in South Africa, so bringing witnesses here will be subjecting the accused to two trials which infringes on their rights.”
Earlier, Chirwa ordered the State to provide “duly certified” documents and records pertaining to the cases in South Africa and the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) Treaty in seven days.
The chief resident magistrate stressed that it is important for the State to do so as it will help the defence to prepare their arguments.
The Bushiris had asked to be furnished with the gazetted Sadc Extradition Treaty and all extradition details as supplied to the Ministry of Justice and the DPP by the South African Government.
On whether the Bushiris case should be treated as civil or criminal, Chirwa ruled that the matter may not proceed as civil but conceded that the case itself will not determine the guilt of the accused, adding the hearing shall take the route of a ‘miscellaneous criminal’ case.
The case has since been adjourned to Monday, March 29 at 9am when the court will make its ruling on whether witnesses should be paraded in court.
The pair, who for several years operated ECG from South Africa, are wanted in the Rainbow Nation in connection with fraud and money laundering of about R102 million (about K5.5 billion). They fled South Africa last November a few days after being granted bail of R200 000 each, under strict conditions, by the Pretoria Central Magistrate’s Court in that country.