A Malawian court has released Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary unconditionally after they were arrested on Wednesday.
South Africa has issued an arrest warrant and demanded extradition of the couple, who are standing trial in the country for fraud and money laundering related charges, after they skipped bail and fled to Malawi.
The duo had denied the charges and, after resurfacing in Malawi, claimed that the fled South Africa over death threats.
On Wednesday, the couple surrendered to the police in Malawi. But a magistrate in the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, freed them unconditionally after their lawyer, Wapona Kita, argued that their arrest had been illegal.
The state prosecutor had asked the court to allow police to keep the couple in custody for a further 30 days to allow for the South African government to formally submit an extradition request.
Mr Kita said it was illegal to arrest them before South Africa made a formal extradition request.
The Pretoria magistrate’s court had earlier ordered that the couples’ R5.5m property at Midstream Estate in Centurion be forfeited to the state as they had contravened their bail conditions.
They have already forfeited a combined R400,000 in bail money after slipping out of SA to avoid trial for alleged involvement in fraud and money laundering worth more than R100m.
Bushiri put out a brief statement on his Facebook page after the court ruling.
“In his ruling the magistrate ordered that my wife and I must be released unconditionally because our arrest was illegal. Further, the magistrate also ruled that whenever they have a case against my wife and I we should appear before court through summon (sic) not arrest.
“I am also informed that some of my assets in SA have been confiscated by authorities, to which I say: ‘My right to life is more important than any asset in this world.’
“Whatever has happened today, I don’t see it as our victory, neither our lawyers. God has won. Tomorrow is better than today!”
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