Two of the 15 people suspected of a role in the 2011 mysterious death of Robert Chasowa, a fourth year engineering student at The Polytechnic, are claiming compensation from government for alleged false imprisonment.
Through private practice lawyer Ambokire Salimu, the first and second accused—Petros Tembo and Geoffrey Doff Botoman—have written the Attorney General’s office demanding K30 million each.
Their action comes in the wake of a recent ruling by Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal judge Edward Twea who, after perusing through the files for the accused, noted that the formality of charging the two after their arrests was not done although they were granted bail.
In an interview on Sunday, Salimu confirmed the development, saying he had already filed a notice of intention to sue to the Attorney General.
He said: “We have served the three months notice of intention to sue government to the Attorney General’s chambers for claims of K30 million for each of the accused. Basically, we are demanding compensation for false imprisonment. Our argument is that you can’t just lock up someone for seven months without any justification.”
Salimu said the K30 million claims are on the basis that “these are exemplary or aggravated damages” which are not normal damages, but punitive.
He added: “Aggravated damages, basically in terms of false imprisonment you don’t only look at the time of the incarceration, you just look at the conditions under which someone was held.
“After their bail, every moment they get employed and their employers know they are connected to Chasowa’s case they instantly get dismissed. So, they have really suffered since their arrests.”
The action has also come weeks after Malawi Police Service (MPS) insisted in its latest communication to Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs that the student committed suicide contrary to earlier findings that he was murdered.
Tembo and Botoman were the first to be arrested in 2012 in connection to Chasowa’s murder following outcome of a Commission of Inquiry which was chaired by Judge Andrew Nyirenda, who is now the Chief Justice.
The two were remanded for about seven months at Zomba Central Prison then later transferred to Chichiri Prison before being given bail in the criminal proceedings.
Prior to Twea’s ruling, the two had applied to the court to have their case discharged on the basis that they could not wait indefinitely because it was evident the State had failed to produce evidence against them as indicated by the continued delays to commence trial.
According to Twea’s ruling, there was no need for the case to be formally discharged by the court because they were not charged in the first place.
Salimu said based on that ruling, his clients decided to file a notice of intention to the Attorney General to sue the government.
Under the Civil Procedure (Suits By and Against Malawi Government) Act one cannot sue government without giving the Attorney General a three-month notice of intention to sue.