Zambia Frees Opposition Leader Hakainde Hichilema

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She said there was no way the Government could have been pressurised when the matter involving Mr Hichilema was a court case and that there was no "underhand" from the Government on the treason charge against the opposition leader.

Among the trumped up charges was that on 5th and 8th April 2017, Mr. Hichilema and his co-accused conspired to usurp state power by according the UPND leader a status of the republican President in Western Province after he was received by huge crowds at the Kuomboka ceremony.

Hichilema's supporters were jubilant, but he showed no emotion as he listened to the judge.

Hichilema, the leader of the UPND, had been in custody since April over an incident where he allegedly failed to give way to President Edgar Lungu's motorcade, the French news agency AFP reported.

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"As of yesterday, some of our members were arrested".

But last year's election was marked by clashes between supporters of Lungu's Patriotic Front (PF) party and Hichilema's United Party for National Development (UPND).

Speaking at a joint media briefing at her office yesterday attended by Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya and Special Assistant to the President Amos Chanda, Ms Mulenga reiterated that the Judiciary was an independent institution working without any interference.

She, however, clarified that contrary to assertions peddled by some sections of society, the Government was not under pressure to release Mr Hichilema and that such claims were a falsehood.

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"We accept what has happened today and respect the decision of the DPP", chief government spokeswoman Kampamba Mulenga said.

"It signifies the beginning of the reconciliation process, with the next elections being central", said Alex Ng'oma, a political science lecturer at the University of Zambia.

Hichilema's release comes shortly after the visit to Lusaka of Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.

A Zambian official said the Commonwealth would be appointing a special envoy to facilitate the talks between Lungu and Hichilema along with other political players.

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And last month, Lungu invoked a state of emergency, increasing police powers of arrest and detention after a series of arson attacks blamed on opposition parties.

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