Zvikomborero Parafini, Court Reporter
SUSPECTED notorious robber Musa Taj Abdul has been defended by his lawyer who said he has the right to freedom pending trial.
Speaking to H-Metro, Abdul’s lawyer Concillia Mahiya said even though there has been a public outcry, he managed to prove to the court because he is a suitable candidate for bail and has no capacity to flee because his passport expired in 1998.
“Justice demands as of right that anyone facing charges as an accused must be released on bail unless there are strong and compelling reasons why he should be detained continuously.
“Right to liberty is a constitutionally protected right in section 50 1(d) of the Constitution. There is however need to balance the liberty of the accused with those of the interests of the society.
“Nothing was placed before the courts to support that indeed the accused was on the run for 20 years. There are no charges that were given to him that he allegedly committed in those 20 years and beyond.
“The presumption of innocence like any other person highly favours him even on the face of a strong prima facie case. Inasmuch as the public is not happy, the accused person should still enjoy his right to liberty. There is no previous conviction in respect of the accused person in armed robbery cases. So I think he should be given that chance to enjoy his freedom pending his trial
“He has proven he is a man of fixed abode through the testimony of her mother; he has a house in St Martins and has no capacity to flee because his passport expired in 1998. He is not a flight risk at all; he is even eager to stand trial and clear his name.
“The State case against him is actually built on a shaky ground,” she said.
Another lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity said while the public outcry is understandable, bail is a constitutional right.
“The outcry from the public is understandable given the serious and numerous allegations that the accused is facing.
“However in terms of our law, including the Constitution, an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Getting bail pending trial is therefore a constitutional right. An accused person awaiting trial must be released either conditional to ensure that they attend trial, or not to interfere with evidence or not commit other offences.
“It is appalling to believe that given the history the accused may commit other offences. The challenge with that is that he may not have been convicted of many other offences he is alleged to have committed. They remain allegations in the eyes of the law.
“In such a case to balance the interest of the public and the accused, it is desirable and recommended that the State brings such an accused urgently to trial. We should have fast track trials for such accused persons to avoid them being released on bail or being removed completely from remand.”
Another Harare lawyer said bail is individualised and cannot be denied because of public outcry.
“Bail is an individualised application that doesn’t depend on the amount of noise or the outcry the public makes, the circumstances of that matter are to be related to maybe after so many years the state case is now in shambles but the State had to apprehend him on the warrant that was issued 20 years ago and upon reflection, maybe the witnesses have moved, they may have died or the docket can no longer be located.
“The court cannot keep a person in custody because bail is not a punishment, it’s not penal in nature.
“Bail is just a procedure whereby the custody of an accused person is determined pending the delayed or postponed trial.
“Look at the record and see what the submissions on record indicate on the position of the mater.
“A good number of the people that were alive 20 years ago are either dead or sick, they cannot testify to the events that happened 20 years ago, some have moved from Zimbabwe and it’s difficult for authorities to assemble their evidence into a credible docket that can be taken for prosecution,” he said.
Another lawyer who also spoke to H-Metro said the public outcry is based on wrong information, because this is an accused person that was arrested after a movie style occurrence, but the state may have failed to show that there are compelling reasons.