A witness in the case in which former Evelyn Hone College Head of Media Studies Department, Clayson Hamasaka, is facing charges of being in possession of obscene materials has told the Lusaka Magistrates Court that the accused had the materials on his laptop.
Lovemore Cheelo, who is the Forensic Computer expert from Zambia Information Communications and Technology Authority (ZICTA), however told the court that what he tendered as evidence was merely a preliminary report that was not conclusive and could not be fully relied upon by any competent court.
Appearing during cross-examination before Lusaka Magistrate Obster Musukwa, Mr. Cheelo told the court that on August 8, 2013, he received four laptops from Zambia Police that were seized from Hamasaka’s house during the search and was told to carry-out a forensic analysis with a view of finding defamatory contents on the Head of State or any other information relevant to the investigation.
Asked by Hamasaka’s lawyers Wilson Mweemba and Keith Mweemba on the state in which he received the laptops, Cheelo told the court that none of the laptops or flash disks that he received were sealed as should have been the case.
“Ordinarily, the laptops and other gadgets should have been sealed and I should have been the one to break the seal before doing the analysis.
He said the last login date on the computer, possibly by the accused person Hamasaka, was on June 21 2013 July 9, 2013 the computers were seized, but the same computer and files in question were opened and accessed on July 21, 2013, when they were not in his custody.
Cheelo said he did not know who could have accessed Hamasaka’s laptop on July 21 2013 as they were just given to him for analysis and were not sealed as per tradition.
After being shown the receipt that showed the laptop was bought in 2008, Cheelo said it was strange that the laptop in question was indeed first used in 2008, yet the file in question with obscene materials was created in 2006.
“Sealing evidence is the common standard that is used everywhere to make sure there is no tampering with data and files on the computer and to secure the chain of custody,” Cheelo told the court.
Asked on how he was able to open Mr. Hamasaka’s laptops when they had passwords, Cheelo said it was very possible using some workstations and that the same way he was able to open the computers, anybody else could have been able to open, insert, save, or remove a file from the laptops.
Hamasaka’s laptops were seized during a search at his house on July 9, 2013, but Cheelo told the packed courtroom that according to his expert analysis, there was evidence the laptop and files in question with the alleged obscene materials were accessed on July 21, 2013 in the absence of the accused and his lawyers.
He said it was clear someone was manipulating the dates on the laptop because it was not possible that the file with obscene materials could have been created and saved in 2006 when the computer was bought and first logged-on in 2008.
Cheelo testified that these anomalies coupled with the fact that the laptops were not sealed; the danger of injecting or inserting incriminating data could not be ruled out.
When asked what he did after noticing all these anomalies, Mr. Cheelo said he advised the investigating team but they still insisted that he produces the same preliminary report which was later tendered in court, yet he would normally produce a detailed forensic report which is more reliable.
He said what was before the court was a mere preliminary report that cannot be relied upon because according to normal forensic investigations, a detailed forensic report should have been done and signed unlike the pieces of paper that were tendered as evidence.
He further told the court that according to the preliminary report he tendered, there were at least more than three valid users on the laptop and anyone user might be able to save a file in other users.
Last year, a combined team of Zambian security officers from Zambia Police, Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), and Zambian Intelligence services raided homes of some journalists they suspected of contributing to on-line publications.
Hamasaka, whose home was also raided, was dismissed as Head of Media Studies Department from the government owned Evelyn Hone College, when opposition UPND president Hakainde Hichilema visited the institution and attempted to feature on the college radio station which Mr. Hamasaka was manager of.
When contacted for a comment Hamoonga said the police was waiting for Hichilema yesterday but they had been informed by his lawyers that he was only available on Monday.
Asked whether they had summoned him in connection with the State House letter leaked to online media and the Daily Nation newspapers where President Sata responded to the letter written to him as “useless and unconstructive” for advising him to resolve the standoff between the Paramount Chief Chitimukulu of the Bemba people and government, Hamoonga said that he was unable to say why HH was being summoned but, “you can use those things in your story.”
He said that police would keep issues surrounding the summoning of Hichilema to themselves.
But police sources at Force Headquarters told the Daily Nation that Hichilema was summoned in connection with the State House letter leaked to online media and the Daily Nation newspapers.
The source said that senior police officers have been instructed to probe Hichilema and find a case against him over the letter which was titled ‘secret’.
“They want to fix him over the ‘secret letter’ State House sent to HH. He might be arrested,” one of the officers told the Daily Nation.