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Police confirm treason charges against Zambia opposition leader

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- Police on Wednesday formally charged Zambia’s leading opposition leader with four counts, among them treason, for his failure to give way to President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade last Saturday.

Kakoma Kanganja, Inspector-General of the Zambia Police, said Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND), has been arrested and charged with five others after investigations revealed that he disobeyed police orders to give way to Lungu’s motorcade on a road in western Zambia’s Mongu district, a move that endangered the Zambian leader’s life.

The dockets of case will be taken to the director of public prosecutions for further dealings, he added.

The opposition leader and his co-accused have also been charged with disobedience to lawful orders, disobeying of statutory duty, and using of insulting language while 12 other party supporters have been arrested for obstructing police officers in execution of their duties.

"I wish to reiterate that the actions by the opposition leader were unreasonable, reckless and criminal," he told reporters during a press briefing at his office in Lusaka, the country’s capital.

Treason is a non-bailable offense in Zambia, with a minimum jail term of 15 years and a maximum sentence of death.

The opposition leader was arrested on Tuesday after hundreds of police raided and ransacked his house on Monday night.

He was first taken to Woodlands Police Station but later transferred to a police training college on the outskirts of the Zambian capital.

According to reports, the police switched off power to the house, blocked the main roads and broke down the gates to gain access into the house before firing teargas into the house, choking the opposition leader’s family.

The police also fired rubber bullets and tear smoke and held his workers and family members at gunpoint.

Some of the party’s senior leaders and journalists who went to the residence situated in east of the city were assaulted by the police.

The police chief however justified the raid on the opposition leader’s house.

Hichilema, 54, narrowly lost to Lungu in last year’s presidential election and has refused to recognize the Zambian leader’s victory.

His lawyers have since described his treason charge as nonsensical, adding that there was no treason that was committed along the road.

His arrest has since ignited wide condemnation from both local and international observers.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has appealed to the Zambian government to adhere to the rule of law and human rights principles in dealing with the opposition political parties, according to a statement released by his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi.

Nevers Mumba, former Zambian vice-president and now leader of a faction of the opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), said the charging of Hichilema with treason was an illegality because it was the police who failed to do their duty while Mike Mulongoti, former government minister and now leader of the Peoples Party said order and the rule of law have broken down in the country.


FOCUS: Zambian police hold Opposition leader after overnight raid



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