ANDREW MUKOMA writes
THE Livingstone High Court has sentenced in absentia a Zambia Army solider to five years imprisonment with hard labour for being in possession of 16 pieces of ivory.
Sevelino Zulu, warrant officer class two of Livingstone and Watson Chenjelani charged with being in possession of prescribed trophy, were acquitted by the lower court but the state appealed against the decision.
On February 1, 2016, in Livingstone, the duo had in their possession 16 ivory pieces weighing 53.8 kilogrammes, without any written authority from the director of the Department of National Park and Wildlife.
Yesterday, the case came before Livingstone High Court Judge in charge Justice Chilombo Phiri.
Defence lawyer, Adrian Nkausu of AC Nkausu told the court that Zulu was not before the court as he was out the country on peace keeping mission in the Central Africa Republic.
Mr Nkausu informed Court that Zulu would be in that country for the next 12 months and only Chenjelani was before court.
But Justice Phiri said that despite Zulu being out of the country, she would pass the judgement in his absence.
The Judge said the appeal came to her court after the respondents were acquitted by the lower court and the prosecution appealed against the decision.
She said the lower court erred when it acquitted two people.
Justice Phiri said from the evidence of the four witnesses from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, there were no inconsistences as indicated by the lower court.
She wondered how the lower court merely relied on the defence by Zulu which differed with the warden from the department without any proof.
Justice Phiri noted that the trial court did not properly evaluate the evidence and its decision to acquit them was wrong.
“The trial court misdirected itself and I uphold the grounds of appeal and set aside the acquittal. I find them guilty of being in illegal possession of ivory and I convict them of the charge accordingly,” she read her judgement.
In mitigation, Mr Nkausu asked the court to be lenient on his clients as they were first offenders.
In passing the sentence, the Judge said, “I take into account the mitigation that they are first offenders. I hereby sentence them to the minimum mandatory sentence of five years imprisonment with hard labour.”
“For the second convict who is in court the sentence is effective today and for the first convict who is outside the country, his sentence will be effective on the date he will be put into custody,” she added.
She said a bench warrant for his arrest on arrival will be issued and remand warrant will be issued once is arrested.