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Prayers held for Zambian opposition leader standing trial for treason

Prayers held for Zambian opposition leader standing trial for treason

Zambia

Hundreds of Zambians gathered to pray for jailed opposition chief, Hakainde Hichilema, who is facing treason charges for blocking the motorcade of President Edgar Lungu.

Present at the church service was the wife of the politician who could not hold back her tears. Mrs. Hichilema was pictured weeping during the peace and unity prayers held at the Cathedral in the capital.

The United Party for National Development (UPND) leader has been on remand since 11 April this year. He was facing three charges – treason, using insulting language and disobedience of lawful orders.

The Lusaka magistrate court trying his case adjourned the treason case to May 22. The State dropped the disobedience of lawful orders charge and the court on May 15 acquitted him on charges of using insulting language.

Magistrate Greenwell Malumani in acquitting Hichilema of the charge said he had found that police officers who were main witnesses proved unreliable having given inconsistent testimonies.

Last month, the opposition chief was arrested after the convoy he was travelling in allegedly refused to give way to the president’s motorcade. His party insists that the charges against their leader are politically motivated.

This is not the first time Hakainde Hichilema is being arrested, he had spent a night in custody last October, accused of unlawful assembly and sedition when he tried to visit supporters in jail.

Hichilema has been charged with plotting with other people between October 10 of last year and April 8 to overthrow the government. The arrest has raised political tension in Zambia, Africa’s second-biggest copper producer.

The Southern African country has traditionally been relatively stable but relations between the government and opposition have been fraught since last August when President Edgar Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) party beat the UPND in a presidential election marred by violence.

The opposition says the vote was rigged but Hichilema has so far failed in his legal challenge against the result.

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