Opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema’s lawyers today complained to the court that they were harassed and intimidated by police officers who had allegedly denied them entry into the Lusaka magistrate court premises.
Keith Mweemba, Jack Mwiimbu, Sakwiba Sikota and Martha Mushipe all complained before Resident Magistrate Aridah Chulu today when Mr. Hichilema’s case in which he is charged with issuing a statement likely to cause alarm in the nation came up for trial today.
It is alleged that Hichilema had issued a statement that the Patriotic Front (PF) had sent youths to Sudan for militia training to cause havoc in the country.
The defence lawyers said they were not in their right state of mind to adequately represent their client due to the harassment and intimidation they allegedly went through at the hands of police officers who were deployed to the court premises to maintain law and order.
The lawyers therefore applied for an adjournment in the matter saying they were not ready to proceed as they were disturbed by the intimidation and harassment which made some of them wait outside for sometime before they were allowed entry into the court premises.
One of the defense lawyers, Martha Mushipe charged that there was no need for the presence of police if they could not provide security but harassment to innocent people that included lawyers.
But the prosecution team of lawyers objected to the application saying there have been many adjournments in the matter and that they were not aware of what transpired outside the court premises since it was not brought to their attention.
In her ruling on the matter, magistrate Chulu said she heard both parties’ arguments.
She said she had no option but to adjourn the matter since the defense team had indicated that it was not ready to proceed due to the alleged harassment by police officers.
She therefore adjourned the matter to May 15 and 16, 2014 for commencement of trial.
And Minister of Justice Wynter Kabimba, who is also Patriotic Front (PF) Secretary General, was supposed to testify in the matter before it was adjourned to next week.
There was heavy security at the Lusaka magistrate court as police officers clad in riot gear were deployed to man the court premises.
Many people, including lawyers and journalists, had a tough time to have access to the court premises due to the tight security.