Zambia president denies role in politician’s arrest

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Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema is against laws that impinge on the freedoms enjoyed by citizens, his spokesperson has said.

The comment follows the arrest of a critic for allegedly defaming the head of state.

Neither does the president influence the arrest of his critics nor how the law should be applied, spokesman Anthony Bwalya added.

Opposition politician Sean Tembo was arrested last Thursday over the alleged defamation and he remains in police custody.

A video of Mr Tembo being taken to hospital on Monday for a brief visit before being returned to police custody has been shared online.

Mr Tembo, an ardent critic of Mr Hichilema, was arrested last week after a Facebook post criticising a fuel price hike was widely criticised as vulgar and sexist.

“Bally’s monthly menstruation is here again. Fuel prices to be reviewed tomorrow,” he wrote.

Mr Hichilema is widely known as “Bally”, especially on social media.

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But his spokesperson said Mr Tembo’s arrest had nothing to do with the president.

Mr Hichilema ” does not write the law, and neither can or does he direct how the law should be enforced, nor does he direct or effect the arrests of those who perceivably fall foul of the law in its current form,” Mr Bwalya said.

He added that the president was working to re-establish Zambia as a model of democracy and good governance in the region and beyond.

Despite promising to issue a comprehensive statement on Mr Tembo’s arrest, the police have yet to do so.

Several people have recently been arrested under the defamation of the president law that carries a maximum three-year prison sentence, as calls to repeal it intensify.

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