Zambian opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema, has been released from jail after the government dropped treason charges against him and five others.
The state prosecutor on Wednesday morning filed a ‘nolle prosequi’ in the case where Hichilema and five others were supposed to stand trial. The accused party had pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charges and the case was to begin today.
A ‘nolle prosequi’ application is an entry in the court record to the effect that the plaintiff or prosecutor will not proceed. The decision to drop the charges had been reported over the weekend by Reuters news agency citing anonymous government sources.
Confirmed:— Kennedy Gondwe (KennedyGondwe) August 16, 2017
HHichilemaand five others discharged through a nolle prosequi.
The United Party for National Development (UPND) leader has since been released from prison custody, his party has confirmed. The decision to drop the charges is being linked to a Commonwealth political intervention that saw the Secretary-General of the group, Patricia Scotland, visiting the country last week and conferring with major political stakeholders.
She met with President Edgar Lungu and Hichilema as well as other opposition members. “At the beginning of my tenure as Secretary-General, I decided to establish a new approach to democracy and governance support.
‘‘So visiting Zambia at this crucial time was a priority for me, because this is where we essentially launched this new integrated approach to supporting peaceful elections and other democratic processes. This approach entails providing support to member states before, during and after elections,” the Secretary-General said.
Arrest and charges
The UPND leader was arrested in April during a police raid on his home in the capital Lusaka. Hichilema was said to have endangered the life of the president when his motorcade refused to give way to a presidential convoy months back.
He, along with five others, was charged with three offenses: treason, disobeying lawful orders and using insulting language. The state prosecutor dropped the second charge whiles the magistrate struck out the third citing incoherent and untruthful testimonies by police officers.
His lawyers previously said the case should not proceed to a high court because the officer who issued the trial papers had no authority to do so. With the current development, a trial date would be set by a high court judge.
Zambia, a major copper producer has been in a politically tensed state following disputed elections held in August last year.
The UPND have maintained that the polls were rigged in favour of President Edgar Lungu and the ruling Patriotic Front (PF). They have however failed to overturn the results through the courts.