Former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Fahad Assani, a private practice lawyer hired by the state to prosecute some government and top Democratic Progressive Party officials in a treason case, has no licence to practise.
The lawyer and Malawi Law Society (MLS) confirmed the development.
However, the Ministry of Justice says the situation has no negative implications in the prosecution of the case.
Assani admitted in an interview yesterday that he does not have a licence to practise, but was quick to point out that a process was underway to renew it.
“I haven’t been practising for the past two years and the issue of renewing my licence is already being attended to by the High Court,” he said.
MLS Secretary Felisah Kilembe confirmed in an email response that Assani has no licence, hence cannot be heard by a court of law.
“Indeed it is true that Mr Assani has not renewed his practising licence for this year. However, he is at liberty to apply for renewal of his practising licence as he is duly admitted to the bar.
“Non licensed legal practitioners cannot have audience before the court, we have so far not heard of Mr Assani appearing in any court without a licence,” Kilembe said.
However, in an interview on Monday, Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara defended government’s hiring of Assani, saying he would still be useful by advising the prosecution team on the matter.
“We made a professional decision in the best interest of the nation.
“When you are in court, three lawyers cannot speak at once, so it does not matter that Mr Assani has no licence and will not be standing in court,” Kasambara said.
However, he declined to be drawn on how much government will pay the hired lawyers, saying the move was cost effective.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson, Apoche Itimu, earlier told The BNL Times that the state has turned to private lawyers to prosecute the case due to inadequate staff at the ministry.
“It’s because at the moment we have a number of high profile cases including the Chasowa Inquiry, the Chilumpha case and July 20 so we are quite thin on the ground,” Itimu told the media last week.
Apart from Assani, another private lawyer on the state’s bench in the treason case is Ralph Mhone, who announced recently that he had joined the People’s Party.
The two lawyers are aided by Itimu and another state lawyer.
Among those arrested were DPP Acting president Peter Mutharika, Goodall Gondwe, Henry Mussa, Vuwa Kaunda, Jean Kalirani, Patricia Kaliati, Kondwani Nankhumwa, Nicholas Dausi, former Chief Secretary to the Government, Bright Msaka and his deputy Necton Mhura.
They were arrested on Monday last week and given bail on Thursday the same week.