April 26, 2017 / 8:27 AM / 3 months ago

Zambian court refuses to throw out opposition leader's treason charge

2 Min Read

LUSAKA (Reuters) - A Zambian court refused on Wednesday 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 the government.

Hichilema's lawyers appealed, saying the charges were too vague. But Magistrate Greenwell Malumani told the packed hearing his court did not have the authority to quash the charge and referred the case up 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 this month initially accused Hichilema of treason on the grounds that he had refused to give way to Lungu's motorcade as it passed through Mongu, a town west of the capital Lusaka.

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

Reporting by Chris Mfula; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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