Zambian opposition leader charged with trying to overthrow government

Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:21am GMT

By Chris Mfula

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, arrested last week on suspicion of treason, was charged in a magistrate's court on Tuesday with trying to overthrow the government.

Relations between the government and opposition have been raw since last August, when President Edgar Lungu's Patriotic Front (PF) party beat Hichilema's United Party for National Development (UPND) in a vote the opposition says was rigged.

Police in Africa's No. 2 copper-producing country raided Hichilema's house on April 11 to arrest him and he was initially charged with treason for obstructing Lungu's motorcade.

In court on Tuesday, he was charged with treason in that "(he together with other persons did prepare or endeavoured to overthrow by unlawful means the government" between Oct. 10 last year and April 8 this year.

The charge in the motorcade incident was changed to disobeying instructions from a police officer by failing to give way to a presidential motorcade and using insulting language.

The court directed that Hichilema should be allowed visits by his children and at least five other family members following an application by his defence lawyers, who said he had so far been allowed to see only his wife.

Dressed in a red coat and khaki shirt, Hichilema waved his party symbol to supporters in court and stood throughout.

The prosecution is expected to respond to the issues raised on Wednesday after which the magistrate will make a ruling. Hichilema and five others facing the same charges, who are all members of his party and include his driver, did not enter pleas as treason can only be tried in the high court.   Continued...

Presidential candidate for the United Party for National Development (UPND) Hakainde Hichilema is pictured during a break from a live television debate in Lusaka, Zambia January 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Rogan Ward/File Photo
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