Zam­bia op­po­si­tion leader seeks to quash ‘trea­son’ charge

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

LUSAKA — Lawyers for the Zam­bian op­po­si­tion leader ar­rested last week af­ter al­legedly re­fus­ing to give way to Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu’s con­voy have asked a court to throw out an associated trea­son charge.

Hakainde Hichilema has been jailed since the po­lice raided his home out­side Lusaka on April 11 on charges of break­ing the high­way code and us­ing in­sult­ing lan­guage. But the busi­ness­man-turned-politi­cian is also ac­cused of trea­son.

Ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Hichilema “on un­known dates but be­tween 10 Oc­to­ber 2016 and 8 April 2017 and whilst act­ing to­gether with other per­sons un­known did endeavour to over­throw by un­law­ful means the gov­ern­ment of Edgar Lungu.”

His de­fence team de­nounced the lack of details in the charges, and called on the mag­is­trate court to ver­ify they had been prop­erly drafted.

One lawyer, Vin­cent Malambo, also urged the court “to de­ter­mine whether the charge is not a mere fact or ploy of keep­ing the ac­cused in cus­tody.”

State pros­e­cu­tors ad­mit­ted that the charge was not prop­erly pre­sented and asked the court for per­mis­sion to amend it.

An­other de­fence lawyer, Keith Mweemba, protested the word­ing of the charges, say­ing: “There is no gov­ern­ment of Edgar Lungu, but gov­ern­ment of the Re­pub­lic of Zam­bia.” “You can­not say gov­ern­ment of an in­di­vid­ual per­son.” Mag­is­trate Green­well Malumani did not say when he would hand down his rul­ing.

Hichilema and five of his aides first ap­peared in court on Tues­day since their ar­rests last week. His United Party for Na­tional Devel­op­ment (UPND) party has called the raid “bar­baric” and has ac­cused the po­lice of ha­rass­ment.

Hichilema has launched sev­eral un­suc­cess­ful le­gal bids to chal­lenge Lungu’s vic­tory in last Au­gust’s elec­tion, and has said he does not recog­nise Lungu’s pres­i­dency.

He claims the vote was rigged and ac­cuses Lungu of un­leash­ing an un­prece­dented wave of po­lit­i­cal re­pres­sion in the south­ern African coun­try, which is known for its rel­a­tive sta­bil­ity in the re­gion. — AFP

Mike Pence

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