LAWYERS representing two men convicted for trying to escape from Chikurubi Maximum Prison have asked the court to be lenient saying the “foolish and amateurish” attempt was made out of desperation.
Albert Matapo and Lucky Mhungu were last Monday found guilty of trying to stage a dramatic break from the country’s most secure prison on April 4, 2010.
Matapo was on remand facing treason charges at the time while Mhungu had been in prison for a while.
But arguing in mitigation ahead of sentencing, the pair’s lawyer Charles Varara urged clemency saying the escape bid was clearly a “mission impossible” adding his clients acted out of desperation.
"No grown man would have managed to go through that small hole any way so it is clear that there was no premeditation it was purely instinctive,” Varara told the court during Thursday’s hearing.
"It should also be noted that first accused (Matopo) was not even supposed to be in jail and second accused (Mhungu) had been in jail for a while and these circumstances prompted the two to act foolishly so the court should be lenient in that regard."
Varara said Matopo harboured some political ambitions which would not have been helped by further incarceration and urged the court to give the pair suspended sentences of no more than three years each.
However, prosecutor Michael Reza said escaping from lawful custody was a serious offence and giving the pair suspended sentences would undermine the judicial system.
"The general public will lose confidence in the justice system if we treat this case lightly,” he said.
"They should get the maximum for this charge of 7 years so that a clear message is sent to other prisoners."
Regarding Matopo’s political ambitions, Reza said the country could do without leaders who do not respect the law but agreed that the escape bid was foolish because accused Chikurubi is a fortress.
"They should first finish their current sentences and then serve for jail breaking otherwise they will not feel the punishment," he added.
The magistrate is expected to hand down sentence on Friday.