Zambian opposition fails to have treason case dropped

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Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema failed in his bid to have treason charges against him and other United Party for National Development (UPND) officials dismissed on Wednesday.
Hichilema and five other defendants have been accused of treason over an incident on April 8 when they allegedly blocked President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade as it passed through Mongu, a town 500 kilometers (310 miles) west of the capital Lusaka.
Judge Green Malumano agreed with defense lawyers about the lack of detail in the treason allegation — it contains no information how the accused planned to overthrow the government — but refused to quash the charge.
“Instead, I will allow the prosecutors to amend the charge and… include covert activities the accused planned to undertake in order to overthrow the Zambian government,” he told the court in Lusaka.
If the prosecution failed to include such detail, the count would be quashed, Malumano added.
The UPND defendants cannot be bailed while awaiting trial for treason, which is punishable by the death penalty or at least 15 years’ imprisonment.
Outside the court, around 50 opposition supporters were arrested following clashes with police.
Amnesty International on Wednesday demanded Hichilema’s immediate release and called for the government to drop the treason charges. The group’s southern Africa director, Deprose Muchena, said the treason allegation was designed to harass and intimidate the opposition.

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