Zambia: Adjournment of opposition leader’s treason case is “persecution through prosecution”

In response to the Lusaka Magistrate Court’s decision to adjourn the case of United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema and five of his employees until 12 June, Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa said:

Hakainde Hichilema and his five employees are currently undergoing persecution through prosecution
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa

“Hakainde Hichilema and his five employees are currently undergoing persecution through prosecution and the charge against them must be dropped. Their arrest and detention is part of a cynical ploy to silence all political opposition in Zambia.

The Zambian authorities must stop misusing the criminal justice system to target and harass the political opposition
Deprose Muchena

“This treason charge is designed to intimidate Hichilema and stop him and others in the opposition from taking part in public affairs. The Zambian authorities must stop misusing the criminal justice system to target and harass the political opposition.”

Background

Hakainde Hichilema is the president of the main opposition political party, the United Party for National Development (UPND) in Zambia. 

The six were arrested on 11 April after they allegedly failed to give way to a Presidential convoy in Mongu district. They claim they were beaten, teargassed and pepper sprayed on their genitals by the police.

Hichilema was initially charged with treason, “disobeying lawful orders” and using insulting language towards the police after a confrontation with a convoy carrying President Edgar Lungu.

The Lusaka magistrate court later dropped all charges except treason.