The High Court in Mzuzu on Monday started hearing the case of Wilson Kambonje who has spent eight years in prison without trial.
The lawyer of the murder suspect, 45, appeared before Justice Dorothy De Gabrielle in camera at Mzuzu Courthouse where his lawyer petitioned for bail.
However, he will spend more days in the congested cells as the State argued against his release until the judge adjourned the case.
Knowledge of the Laws of the Land (Knoll) executive director Christon Ghambi moved the court to ensure the suspect temporarily walks free.
This comes two months after Nation Online exposed how the State violated Kambonje’s constitutional rights to fair trial since his arrest in Rumphi in 2010.
The revelation persuaded Knoll to represent the suspect free of charge.
In an interview, both Ghambi and senior State advocate Dziko Malunda confirmed the adjournment.
“Our argument is that the State has grossly violated the constitutional rights of the suspect as Section 42 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to fair trial, requires that a person should be tried within reasonable time,” said Ghambi.
Section 161 (D) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code provides 90 days as the maximum period that a person accused of murder can stay in prison during trial.
The State did not ask for an extension of the deadline before the 90-day waiting period expired, said Ghambi.
“So, why should they argue against bail when they have never complied with the law for all those eight years. This is a total violation of the constitutional right to fair trial,” he said.
In a separate interview, Malunda said the State wants the court to set a date for a full hearing to prosecute the case “once and for all, rather than just focusing on bail”.
“Since the suspect has spent a lot of years in prison, what matters now is to find him guilty or not so that he is either acquitted or sentenced.”
The lawyer, who admitted that the suspect has unnecessarily spent more years in prison, could not explain why he was forgotten up to eight years.
“It is the duty of all stakeholders to bring such cases to light for prosecution,” he said.
Kambonje, from Machinga, was remanded in February 2010 on suspicion that he committed murder in Rumphi.