Lusaka Magistrate Alice Walusiku was yesterday forced to relax New Labour Party leader Fresher Siwale’s bail conditions after his lawyer lamented that it was impossible for any civil servant to bail out an opposition leader accused of defaming President Edgar Lungu.

In this case, Siwale is accused of defaming President Lungu by branding him an identity thief.

When the matter came up, the state called its first witness, Muvi TV director of programs Mabvuto Phiri to the stand and he gave an account of what Siwale said when he was featured on The Assignment program on April 22, 2018.

After giving his account, he attempted to tender a recording of the said program as evidence by defense lawyers Keith Mweemba and Gilbert Phiri objected, saying there was a high likelihood that it would have been tampered with.

The state applied for an adjournment in order to draft an appropriate response, to which the defense did not object.

The defense, however, made an application for variation of bail conditions, informing magistrate Walusiku that it was impossible to find a civil servant willing to bail out their client, given the charges he was facing.

In her ruling, magistrate Walusiku removed the requirement for a senior civil servant as a surety.

“I have take note what has been said by the defence counsel for the court to vary bail conditions. The conditions that were given to the accused person where conditions by the court. If the accused person has failed to meet those conditions, the law provides that the accused person can apply to the court for the conditions to be varied and that can be done. If there is no such application, the court cannot know. However, the court must take judicial notice that the accused person is a leader of an opposition party and it will be difficult for him to find sureties which is not supposed to be the case. All accused persons are equal before the law. However, the point has been taken and I note that the accused person has proved that it has been difficult to come out from custody on bail. For this reason, the application to vary the bail conditions have been granted. The court grants the accused person bail in own recognizance with the sum of K25,000 with two working sureties from reputable institutions,” said magistrate Walusiku.

By press time, Siwale hadn’t yet met the conditions.

Look out for a verbatim report of these court proceedings in tomorrow’s edition.