Court refuses to dismiss Hilchilema treason charge


A Zambian court refused to throw out treason charges against opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, a case that has stoked political tensions months after contested elections.

The United Party for National Development (UPND) leader was arrested in a police raid on his home earlier this month and charged with trying to overthrow government.

Hichilema’s lawyers appealed, saying the charges were too vague. But Magistrate Greenwell Malumani told a packed hearing his court did not have the authority to squash the charge and referred the case to the High Court.

Zambia was seen as one of southern Africa’s most stable countries until relations soured between the government and opposition in August, when President Edgar Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) party beat the UPND in elections marred by violence.

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

Police initially accused Hichilema of treason on the grounds he had refused to give way to Lungu’s motorcade as it passed through Mongu, west of Lusaka.

He was formally charged last week with plotting with other people between October 10 last year and April 8 this year to overthrow the government by unlawful means.