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I’ve brought myself back, Pilato tells court

MUSICIAN Chama Fumba aka Pilato, human rights activist Laura Miti and four others yesterday appeared before Lusaka principal resident magistrate Mwaka Mikalile and pleaded not guilty to a charge of disobeying lawful orders after they protested against the purchase of 42 fire tenders in September 2017.

And Pilato submitted that he was running away from individuals who were threatening his life and not from institutions such as the court and the police. Meanwhile, magistrate Mikalile has reserved ruling on whether to restore Pilato’s police bond or not to May 21. The accused, who also included Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) leader Sean Tembo, Bornwell Mwewa, Lewis Mwape and Mika Mwambazi, all pleaded not guilty.

The matter could not take off since February because Pilato had moved to South Africa where he sought refuge after his life was threatened and magistrate Mikalile issued a bench warrant for his arrest. But Pilato returned on Wednesday and was immediately apprehended at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport.

When Pilato was presented in court, he claimed that he had been under the protection of Amnesty International. He applied for the restoration of his police bond, which by operation of the law was revoked after an arrest warrant was issued against him. Pilato told the court that his life was in danger after he was asked to explain why he had not been appearing in court.

He explained that on December 11, 2017, he started receiving threats and phone calls from strangers telling him that he would be dealt with over his Koswe Mumpoto song. Pilato submitted that he received Whatsapp messages and a video where he was told that he was going to be dealt with severely. He said the video contained individuals who were directly threatening him.

Pilato added that prior to that, he was appearing in court with his co-accused but that every time they went to court, they were being informed that the case had not been brought as the docket was still with the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). He submitted that while he was waiting for a new date to appear in court, he started receiving threats on his life and he was scared, a situation that prompted him to leave the country.

“After receiving the threats, I was scared and I left the country and I was under the protection of Amnesty International,” Pilato said.

He informed the court that Amnesty International wrote a letter to the DPP concerning his issues. Pilato produced the letter together with the video, which contained threats against him to support his case. He said while he was away, he started seeing reports that he was running away from the police but that it was not true because he was afraid of individuals who were threatening his life and not institutions like the police.

Pilato submitted that he was later advised by his lawyers to return so that he could clear the air on the issue of running away and he freely brought himself back.

“I brought myself into the country, I was not brought by the police. I willingly came back after I was advised by my lawyers,” Pilato said.

After Pilato’s submissions, all the accused took their pleas denying the charge. And one of Pilato’s lawyers Keith Mweemba applied for the restoration of his police bond, arguing that the explanation by his client was reasonable. He said the court had discretion to restore Pilato’s police bond and should note the fact that his client freely brought himself back.

Mweemba said Pilato would continue appearing before court whenever required by the court. But State prosecutors Dennis Manda and Michal Nundwe objected, arguing that Pilato was a flight risk and he had not adduced any evidence to support his claims of threats.

After hearing all the submissions, magistrate Mikalile reserved ruling to May 21.

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