A sedition charge was today slammed on Zambia’s opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema and his deputy.But they were granted bail.
Hichilema and Geoffrey Mwamba were detained on Wednesday accused of holding an illegal assembly in connection with an impromptu address he gave on Sept 26 to a group of supporters in the rural town of Mpongwe, police said.
“They have been taken to court and charged with an offense of unlawful assembly and seditious practices. They have been granted bail,” Hichilema’s lawyer Jack Mwiimbu said.
Hichilema and Mwamba both pleaded not guilty and will appear again in court on Oct. 19, Mwimbu added.
Sedition in Zambia is defined by conduct inciting people to rebel against the authority of the state, and carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
“This is a scheme by the party in power to harass the opposition and instill fear in them,” UPND spokesman Charles Kakoma said.
“They know that they did not genuinely win the last elections and want to instill fear in those who want to speak out against what happened.”
Hichilema himself issue a statement on his Facebook page describing their arrest and arraignment in court, vowing to continue to fight until justice is done.
“Fellow country men and women,
“We are stronger together with you especially in such moments.
“We now take this opportunity to inform you that we have pleaded not guilty to allegations of unlawful assembly and seditious practices.
“During our court hearing, our lawyers applied for bail on grounds that the alleged offences are bailable.
“We have since been granted bail of 25,000 kwacha, cash each.
“Ndola Magistrate judge John Mboozi also stated that the alleged committed offences are misdemeanors and bailable hence granting us bail.
“Our matter has since adjourned to 19th October, 2016 for mention.
“We want to sincerely thank you for both your spiritual and physical support.
“However, we maintain that our country must be freed of this dictatorship being experienced under Mr Lungu.
“We also wish to state that this arrest does not any way stop us from persuing other avenues to seek justice over our stolen elections. We will stop an nothing, until justice is done.”
Two months ago, Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND) denounced President Edgar Lungu’s re-election as fraudulent but attempts to mount a legal challenge have so far been unsuccessful.
Hichilema continues to dispute the August election outcome and in a statement before his arrest compared the government’s conduct to the limitation of freedoms experienced when Zambia was still a British colony.
Lungu told Western and Asian diplomats in Lusaka on Thursday he was happy that many local and international observers, including the European Union and African Union, considered the elections credible and largely peaceful.
“While I do acknowledge that the electoral process experienced challenges, I am happy to state that these were resolved through relevant institutions,” Lungu said in a speech.