THE Lusaka Magistrates’ Court yesterday heard that two defence personnel and a businessman accused of conspiring to murder former president Rupiah Banda and State House political advisor Kaizar Zulu were subjected to physical and mental torture. And the court heard that the accused have been in detention for close to a month without being charged.
In this case, Steven Phiri, 35, Steven Chooka, 42, both of Military Camp, and Milner Mwanakampwe of Highridge area in Kabwe, are charged with conspiracy and unlawful possession of national registration cards. When the case came up before chief resident magistrate Kenneth Mulife for plea and explanation of the charges, Christopher Mundia, a defence lawyer, said the accused had been subjected to both physical and mental torture.
He revealed that Phiri was unconscious for four days while Mwanakampwe was dragged to the mortuary in an attempt to torture him.
“Not only have the accused before you been incarcerated for a period clearly in violation of their right, A1 (accused number 1) and A3 have been subjected to both physical and mental torture. A1 was unconscious for four days and A3 was dragged to the mortuary in an attempt to simply mentally torture him,” Mundia complained.
He asked the court to dismiss the State’s application to adjourn and allow the defence to proceed making its necessary applications.
Earlier, the State applied for an adjournment to today but the defence objected, saying the accused persons had been incarcerated for a month without being brought before court. Another defence lawyer Martha Mushipe said the accused persons had no knowledge of why they were being detained until the matter went to the High Court for habeas corpus application on August 31, 2017 upon which they quickly went and indicted them to avoid their pending release by the High Court.
Mushipe said the State was abusing the due process of the law as well as the judicial system. She said the State must take cognizance of the period the accused persons had been incarcerated without being charged.
“It is our position that the State cannot apply for an adjournment at this stage. They had ample time in which to put their house in order,” said Mushipe.
Another defence lawyer Keith Mweemba said one of the accused persons must be allowed to take plea on the charge tried by the Subordinate Court and explain other cases triable by the High Court so that they proceed to make certain applications in the interest of justice. Mweemba said Zambia was a democratic country where an innocent citizen could not be held close to a month without being charged.
But the State insisted on being granted an application to adjourn. The State prosecutor said he wanted to obtain instructions on how to proceed. And magistrate Mulife reluctantly granted the application to adjourn but observed that the State went to court less prepared and only to seek an adjournment. Later, Mweemba applied for bail but magistrate Mulife advised the defence to make the application today after the accused take plea and have the charge explained to them.