Zambia opposition leader says was attacked during arrest

Hakainde Hichilema.Picture: AFP

Zambia’s main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema on Tuesday claimed he was assault by police during his arrest as he appeared in court on charges of obstructing the presidential motorcade.

The leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND), who appeared before a magistrates court, is facing two separate charges over the alleged incident, which occurred on the weekend of April 8-9.

One of the charges is treason which will be heard at a later date in the High Court.

Police went to arrest him on April 11, with Hichilema telling the magistrate that they had attacked and tear-gassed him in an ordeal that lasted 15 hours.

“We were attacked by criminals in police uniforms,” he said. “They came without a search warrant.”

Hichilema had allegedly refused to give way to President Edgar Lungu’s convoy as they were both travelling to the Western province for a traditional ceremony.

Several days later, more than 100 armed police surrounded Hichilema’s house outside Lusaka, firing tear gas before taking him into custody, AFP correspondents at the scene said.

Hichilema has launched unsuccessful legal bids to challenge Lungu’s victory in last August’s election, and the businessman-turned-politician has said that he does not recognise Lungu’s presidency.

He claims the vote was rigged and accuses Lungu of unleashing an unprecedented bout of political repression in Zambia, which is known for its relative stability.

Hichilema’s lawyer Vincent Malambo told the court that since his arrest, his client had been denied access to a legal representative and family visits.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the magistrate ruled that he be seen by a doctor of his choice and be given access to both lawyers and family while in custody.

His arrest has been strongly condemned by civil group and political commentators who say the charges would fuel tensions in this poor southern African country.

He returns to court on Wednesday.