The Law Association of Zambia has exonerated Lusaka lawyer Gilbert Phiri from the Judiciary’s complaints regarding Facebook postings attributed to him in which he commented on the treason trial.
And LAZ says Phiri can now appear before any court of law.
On April 11, the Judiciary barred Phiri, who was one of the lawyers representing opposition UPND president Hakainde Hichilema in the treason case, from having an audience with any court over his alleged postings on social media.
Judiciary chief registrar Charles Kafunda asked LAZ president Linda Kasonde to deal with Phiri.
“The attention of the Judiciary has been drawn to a number of articles…The said articles have been running under various headings as follow: ‘plans by court to stop journalists from using phones during HH trial is totally unlawful and won’t be tolerated – HH’s lawyers.’ And ‘HH Court updates warming up for Monday – HH’s lawyer Gilbert Phiri writes’,” wrote Kafunda.
“Arising from the foregoing, the Judiciary thereby lodges a formal complaint of professional misconduct against the named practitioner and expect your association to take the necessary steps against the practitioner. In the meantime, I have been directed to inform you that until the complaint against the practitioner in question is concluded, he will not be allowed audience before any court. By copy of this letter, the practitioner in question is advised accordingly.”
But LAZ has ruled today that it cannot take any action on Phiri because the Judiciary failed to prove that he indeed authored the said postings.
“We have shown hereinbefore that the complainant (Judiciary) told the committee that it did not have evidence to confirm that the excerpts or publications on Facebook and the Zambian Eagle were authored by the Respondent. By the Complainant’s own admission, the complaint against the Respondent was only because of the proximity of the circumstances as hereinbefore explained. In the circumstances of this case and on the complainant’s own position as stated, the Committee finds that whilst the statements, excerpts and or publications complained of by the Complainant were clearly in violation of the Legal Practitioner’s Practice rules, thereby warranting a serious punishment, we find as we have done hereinbefore, that there is no evidence to warrant a finding that he did so. To the extent that the Respondent was not the author of the publications aforesaid, he is exonerated from the complaint accordingly,” read the ruling.
And LAZ further ruled that since Phiri had been cleared, he could now appear before any court of law.
“We note that since the Respondent’s restriction to have audience before any court was premised on our decision, he will now be at liberty to have audience accordingly. The complaint is accordingly dismissed for the reasons sufficiently stated hereinbefore,” read the ruling.
“Before we vacate, we wish to comment on the Complainant’s anxieties regarding the Associations purported lukewarm and cavalier disposition, over matters in which the Associations’ members are alleged to have attacked and abused adjudicators in the discharge of their official functions. To its knowledge and belief, all matters that have involved its members’ acts or omissions as complained of and have been duly brought before the Legal Practitioners Committee have been dealt with and some are awaiting hearing. Unless complaints are brought before the Association, duly complaint to the procedures of lodging complaints, the same may not be heard…it is the committees humble view that all matters that hinge on the violations of rules as complained of herein have been or, are being dealt with.”
Phiri was being represented by his colleagues Keith Mweemba, Christopher Mundia, Precious Mukweemba and Martha Mushipe.