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Zambian Authorities Arrest 5 people on Espionage Charges

Zambian police have arrested five prominent figures on charges of espionage after they alleged on social media that the government was involved in the apparent abduction of independent lawmaker Jay Jay Banda last week.

The arrests were confirmed by police spokesperson Danny Mwale in a press conference on Thursday.

The arrested individuals include opposition lawmakers Munir Zulu and Maureen Mubonga, opposition activist Brebner Changala, and opposition party leaders Edith Nawakwi and Danny Pule.

The charges also include spreading hate speech related to the alleged abduction of Banda, who has since resurfaced.

In addition to the espionage charges, Zulu, Mubonga, and Pule face accusations of proposing a tribal war. Under Zambian law, espionage convictions can result in up to 25 years in prison, while hate speech offenses can lead to fines up to $6,000 and two years of imprisonment.

Makebi Zulu, the lawyer representing some of the suspects, has criticized the charges as “unacceptable” and called for immediate court hearings for those detained.

Political analyst Boniface Cheembe from the University of Zambia has called for political leaders to prioritize the nation’s pressing issues over political conflicts.

“We need to do more as a country,” Cheembe stated. “Our citizens need to demand more from their political leaders to focus on issues such as economic difficulties, infrastructure needs, and provision of services.”

The arrests follow President Hakainde Hichilema’s recent warning that those promoting hate speech and tribalism would face severe legal consequences.

This crackdown comes in the wake of opposition Patriotic Front Secretary General Raphael Nakachinda’s sentencing to 18 months of hard labor for violating a defunct presidential defamation law.

Nakachinda’s conviction, based on his December 2021 claims that Hichilema had influenced judicial decisions, has reportedly had a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Zambia, according to Human Rights Watch.

Source: VOA Zimbabwe

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