A Zambian court has rejected a bid by lawyers for detained opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema to have treason charges against him dropped.
“The charge of treason is only try-able in the High Court. The law does not place power in the subordinate court to quash the indictment. The motion to quash the treason charge is untenable,” magistrate Greenwell Malumani told a packed court room in the capital, Lusaka, Reuters news agency reports.
Journalist Simon Allison has shared a picture of the charge sheet on Twitter, in it, Mr Hichilema is accused with others of an “act that was likely to cause death or grievous to the president of the Republic of Zambia, in order to usurp the executive order of the state”.
The opposition leader was arrested two weeks ago after a police raid on his home and has been in custody since then.
Amnesty accuses Zambia’s state of ‘persecution’
Amnesty International has added its voice to those calling for treason charges against Zambia’s opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema and five others to be dropped.
It has condemned what it says is a campaign of persecution against members of the United Party for National Development (UPND) following disputed presidential elections last year.
Mr Hichilema was arrested two weeks ago after failing to give way when the president’s motorcade passed by.
The police said that his actions endangered the President Edgar Lungu’s life. The treason charges were then changed to say that he had been plotting to overthrow the government.
Mr Hichilema is still being held in custody.
His defence team said they had been given permission by the authorities to pass the president’s motorcade as they were attending a Traditional ceremony.
A spokesman for Amnesty described the incident as “a traffic control issue conflated with treason”.
By Africafrique and agencies