Zambia opposition leader seeks to quash 'treason' charge

"It has been established that the opposition leader disobeyed police orders to clear the way, thereby putting the life of the head of state in danger", police chief Kakoma Kanganja told reporters.

Various local media quoted the Zambian leader warning the diplomats in the wake of the arrest of the country's leading opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema who has been charged with treason, a move that has heightened tension in the southern African nation.

Zambian police reportedly raided his home during the night, breaking down doors and tear-gassing the house.

Hichilema, who narrowly lost to Lungu in last year's presidential election and has refused to recognise the Zambian leader as victor as he believes the vote was stolen, was arrested last Wednesday and charged with four counts, among them treason, together with five other party supporters.

According to court documents, Hichilema "on unknown dates but between 10 October 2016 and 8 April 2017 and whilst acting together with other persons unknown did endeavour to overthrow by unlawful means the government of Edgar Lungu".

Mr Chanda also revealed that in 2014, Mr Hichilema attended a series of secret meetings in South Africa with a number of foreign mining businessmen and arms dealers believed to hold similar grievances against President Lungu and the PF.

His defence team denounced the lack of details in the charges, and called on the magistrate court to verify they had been properly drafted.

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"They are no more than political prisoners", Hichilema's lawyer, Vincent Malambo, told the court.

"Some people are saying President Lungu has the power to intervene in the criminal justice here in Zambia".

"You can not say government of an individual person".

Magistrate Greenwell Malumani struck out one charge of obstruction but read out three charges to the opposition leader and five other co-accused.

His party, the United Party for National Development (UPND), has denied any wrongdoing and said a hearing was due next Tuesday to determine if Hichilema's detention is legal.

"We have not blocked lawyers and Mr Hichilema's members of the family from visiting him because that is his constitutional right", police spokeswoman Esther Mwaata-Katongo said, responding to a claim by the UPND.

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