Zambia opposition leader arrested on treason charges | News | DW | 11.04.2017
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Zambia opposition leader arrested on treason charges

Hakainde Hichilema has been arrested on treason charges after allegedly refusing to allow the presidential motorcade to pass down a street. Hichilema contested last year's election results after a narrow defeat.

The leader of Zambia's United Party for National Development (UPND), Hakainde Hichilema (pictured above), was arrested Tuesday on charges of treason after he obstructed a presidential motorcade for President Edgar Lungu.

Treason is a non-bailable offence in Zambia, with a minimum jail term of 15 years and a maximum sentence of death.

Authorities say Hichilema blocked Lungu's motorcade with his own vehicles during a traditional ceremony in Zambia's Western Province over the weekend. Hichilema's motorcade refused to yield to Lungu's motorcade after presidential security details signaled for Hichilema's motorcade to move out of the way, according to authorities.

Hichilema was detained following an early morning raid on his house in a Lusaka suburb on Tuesday. More than a hundred armed police surrounded Hichilema's house and used tear gas in the operation to arrest him. Police did not say why they arrested the opposition leader, but spokeswoman Esther Mwaata Katongo said Hichilema "will remain in detention."

UPND secretary-general Stephen Katuka said that police actions during the arrest were "really barbaric." Hichilema's lawyer, Jack Mwiimbu, said: "We are definitely challenging the police action."

Zambia Wahlen Edgar Lungu (picture-alliance/dpa/X.Penglijun)

Zambia's President Edgar Lungu during last year's election

Tight, controversial election

Hichilema is a self-made businessman who has run for president five times. He has refused to accept the results of the August election, which Lungu won, and attempted legal challenges to the election results, none of which have come to fruition. International observers have stated Zambia's August 2016 election was marred by restricted opposition campaigning, intimidation and biased state media.

This is not the first time that Hichilema was arrested after the election. Hichilema and party vice president Geoffrey Mwamba were arrested for unlawful assembly and sedition when they attempted to visit supporters in jail last October. Hichilema was granted bail, but supporters have said this was an attempt by the ruling party, Lungu's Patriotic Front (PF), to silence opposition.

kbd/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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