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Court says Pilato can’t be faulted for fleeing threats, ‘his life was in danger’

LUSAKA principal resident magistrate Mwaka Mikalile yesterday granted musician Chama Fumba, aka Pilato, a K30,000 bail in his own recognizance after she found that his fleeing the country could not be faulted as his life was threatened. Pilato is jointly charged with human rights activists Laura Miti and others for disobeying lawful orders after they protested the government’s purchase of 42 fire tenders in September 2017.

Also jointly charged with Pilato is Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) leader Sean Tembo, Bornwell Mwewa, Lewis Mwape and Mika Mwambazi and they all pleaded not guilty. Pilato was last Wednesday arrested at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport following a bench warrant that magistrate Mikalile issued against him for not appearing in court for four months.

And when he was presented in court last Thursday, Pilato told the court that he sought asylum in South Africa due to death threats he was receiving from some individuals, saying he was not running away from court process or the police.

He claimed that he had been under the protection of Amnesty International and that a letter was written to the Director of Public Prosecution seeking his protection. He applied for the restoration of his police bond which by operation of the law was revoked after an arrest warrant was issued against him.

And in her ruling, magistrate Mikalile said Pilato cannot be faulted for fleeing the country.

She said she viewed the video which Pilato produced in court, saying it indeed showed individuals threatening him.

“Indeed he was threatened and he cannot be faulted for fleeing the country,” magistrate Mikalile said.

She also said it was unfortunate that Pilato was not protected by the police after he reported that his life was under threat. Magistrate Mikalile said the State has the duty to protect citizens. And magistrate Mikalile said granting bail was the discretion of the court.

She, however, said Pilato could not enjoy the same privileges that his co-accused are enjoying which was police bond and granted him K30,000 bail in his own recognizance with two traceable sureties from reputable organizations and in management positions and bound in the like sum.

Magistrate Mikalile ordered that Pilato remains in custody until he met the bail conditions.

Trial is expected to commence on June 25.

UPND president Hakainde Hichilema and his vice Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba were among the people that attended the court proceedings.

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