Zambian politician detained for comments on president

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Police in Zambia have detained an opposition politician for allegedly defaming President Hakainde Hichilema.

Sean Tembo, president of the Patriots for Economic Progress party and a harsh critic of Mr Hichilema, was picked up on Thursday evening and is still in police custody.

Though police have promised to issue a comprehensive statement on the arrest, Mr Tembo, who has announced a hunger strike, says he was arrested for allegedly defaming Mr Hichilema.

Three days ago, in reference to Zambia’s monthly review of fuel prices, he wrote on Twitter:

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

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

His comments drew wide condemnation from a cross-section of Zambians while others felt arresting him was excessive.

READ ALSO: Zambia first lady cries over ‘gas attacks’ on children

“While the UPND is in power today and enjoying political power, they do not have the privilege to decide how people should criticize them. Again I say, Sean Tembo is not scared of being arrested, you are playing his game when you arrest him,” wrote musician and civil rights activist Chama Fumba aka Pilato.

“I do not agree with the criticism by Mr Sean Tembo, it’s very offensive and disappointing but we should never confuse the constitution with our emotions. People should be arrested for breaking the law not for upsetting us,” he added.

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

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