Questions over human rights in trial of ousted Malawi president

LAWYERS defending the former president of Malawi against conspiracy to murder charges have condemned the country's new government as “bent on revenge” against the ousted leader.

Memery Crystal partner Harvey Rands, who acted for Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda and two others following their 1995 arrests, saw them acquitted last month on charges of conspiring to murder four politicians in 1983 and of destroying evidence.

Rands and his colleague Bernard Clarke had claimed some aspects of the proceedings had given rise to “considerable concern” about human rights in the country.

They said a Commission of Inquiry, appointed by current president Bakili Muluzi to investigate the murders, “did not conduct itself in a manner that was forensically or procedurally rigorous”.

“It was a politically motivated prosecution,” said Rands. “I believe it was an election pledge made by the new government.

“When a new government takes over in Africa there are those bent on revenge and others who want to embrace international standards. It is to the credit of the court that the defendants were given a fair trial despite immense pressure and all the resources of government which were brought to bear in an attempt to obtain convictions.

“This prosecution was brought by President Mul-uzi's government in an attempt to put Dr Banda's Malawi Congress Party on trial and to undermine effective opposition.

“The Director of Public Prosecutions Mr Nyasulu admitted on BBC radio that the government had directed prosecutions be brought. However, the jury accepted defence submissions that there was no evidence that the defendants had anything to do with the killings.”