Changala in ‘trick’ arrest

Details of the “trickery” used by government agents to secure the arrest of civil rights activist Brebner Changala are finally emerging.
On August 7 during a search at Changala’s house the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) seized 59 tablets of vermox from Changala’s sister Agnes Kawandami’s room which she kept in a suitcase.
At the time of the seizure Changala’s lawyer Gilbert Phiri got two of the 59 tablets to make sure that they corresponded with the rest of the collected drugs.
But on Thursday DEC officers served Mr Phiri with a seizure notice for the two tablets which they collected.
On the same day police picked up Mr Changala and drove with him to Kabwe to pick up his sister. The two were later charged with drug trafficking in ecstasy tablets.
Mr Phiri revealed that he was tricked into parting with the two tablets which he retained after the search.  He said DEC officers did not tell him if the seized drugs were tested or that Changala would be charged with drug trafficking.
“They came with a seizure notice but I insisted that I can only give them the tablets in the presence of my client. So Changala was called and I surrendered the tablets to the officers without knowing what their intentions were,” Phiri said.
Confirming the turn of events Mr Phiri said that the officers using a seizure notice confiscated the two tablets, adding that  he regretted that there was abuse of the DEC search warrant by security officers.
He said it was unfortunate that he released the drugs in the presence of Mr Changala without realising that the State had already accused his client of trafficking which was a non bailable offence.
And an officer who was part of the search team told the Daily Nation that they were acting on instructions that they could not disobey.
The DEC officer who sought anonymity said the drugs from Mr Phiri’s office were seized after the contraband was surrendered to the authorities.
He confirmed that the drugs were seized from Ms Kawandami’s suitcase and not from Mr Changala.
“We know this is more than the drugs. There is no way he could have been charged with possession because he was going to be given bond. In normal instances Mr Changala was not supposed to be dragged in this matter but because he was the target, they decided that we go with him.
“During the whole operation he was very obliging and we had no problems with him and our warning to him was that he must watch his political enemies.
“We are aware about his work and whom he associates with but he must be very careful because he doesn’t know his enemies,” the officer said.