CHIEF Resident Magistrate Lameck Mwale has reserved a ruling on a bail application made by 12 accused persons in a matter where they are charged with terrorism in relation to the gassing that rocked the country in the last few months.
This is a matter in which Feston Mwanza, 45; Bright Habanza, 34; Esau Zanene, 35; Tom Jabala, 43; Derrick Mwinga, 28; Jabulani Phiri, 41; Osward Hamalala, 29; Charles Mungaila, 32; Sydney Hakalinda, 37; Elijah Mwinga, 25; Evaristo Hamalala, 33 and a 16-year-old juvenile of Chikankata District are charged with 15 counts of terrorism and one count of aiding, abetting, conspiracy of terrorist acts and proliferation.
In the first count, it is alleged that between February 1 and 29 this year in Lusaka, the 12 aided, abetted, concealed, procured, incited or solicited the commission of a terrorist act or proliferation.
In the second count, it is alleged that between the same dates, the 12 committed a terrorist act intending to cause death or serious harm to Brenda Tembo by releasing into the environment dangerous, hazardous, harmful substance, toxic chemical or other toxins.
In the third count, it is alleged that between the same dates, the 12 committed a terrorist act intending to cause death or serious harm to Martha Mazaba by releasing into the environment dangerous, hazardous, harmful substance, toxic chemicals among other toxins.
In the fourth count, it is alleged that between the same dates, the 12 committed a terrorist act by intending to cause death or serious harm to Emmanuel Lwaisha when they released into the environment dangerous, hazardous, harmful substance, toxic chemicals among other toxins.
In counts five to 15, it is alleged that between the same the dates, the 12 committed a terrorist act intending to cause death or serious harm on 10 victims by releasing into the environment dangerous, hazardous, harmful substance and toxic chemicals, among other toxins.
The victims are Emmanuel Lwaisha, Memory Banda, Taonga Banda, Esther Banda, Nathan Phiri, Violent Nyirenda, Anthony Nyirenda, Caroline Zulu, Minson Zulu and Regina Phiri, respectively.
When the matter came up before Magistrate Mwale, the charges were read out to the accused who said they understood the charge, but did not take plea in the matter because the Court has no jurisdiction as the matter can only be heard in the High Court.
And in applying for bail, Laston Mwanabo, Sydney Hakalinda’s legal counsel, noted that the law did not prohibit bail in the said offence as the accused is a villager and of fixed abode, and that his car was impounded by the police and was not a flight risk.
The other accused, who were without legal representation, also applied for bail.
But the State, through State prosecutor Stuyvesant Malambo, objected to the application, saying the accused are a security risk to the State and their safety was not guaranteed once released to the public.
“We are alive to the fact that there are no restrictions to the offence, but this is a matter which borders on safety and security of State and the accused persons. Focusing on the State, security will be compromised if the accused are granted bail and it will be in the interest of the State if the accused are denied bail. On the accused, we submit that if bail is granted, their lives will be in danger. As the Court may take judicial notice in the recent happenings of gassing countrywide, arising from that, members of the public executed mob justice on persons suspected in the same, and these suspects are suspects of terrorism…the offence attracts life imprisonment and granting them bail is like releasing them or letting them go,” argued Malambo.
But the defense counter-argued that the objection by the State was based on an assumption and prejudice, which the Court should not entertain.
The other accused persons urged the Court to grant them bail because they were not a security threat as their families and communities would welcome them well if released.
The Court has set Tuesday, March 31, 2020, for ruling.