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» 15.12.2009 - Zambia approved for further poverty reduction funding
» 10.12.2009 - Zambia to tighten anti-craft laws
» 02.12.2009 - Zambia and Zimbabwe to launch One Stop Border Post
» 15.10.2009 - Zambia becomes agric support hub for Southern Africa
» 31.08.2009 - Not yet over for Chiluba
» 31.08.2009 - UN expert urges Zambia to keep poverty reduction promises

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Politics | Society

Court frees Zambia's opposition leader

afrol News, 14 December - A court in the Zambian capital Lusaka today dropped charges of false declaration of assets against the leader of the opposition Patriotic Front, Michael Sata, describing the case as illegal. Mr Sata stood against President Levy Mwanawasa in September presidential polls.

The opposition leader has been an arch-critic of the policies of President Mwanawasa but he has had to pay a price for it: he was detained on 6 December before being sued for false declaration of assets when he wanted to contest for elections. Mr Sata was faulted for wrongly declaring an additional US$ 87,000 worth of assets when he filed his candidacy papers.

In his ruling, Magistrate Sharon Newa however argued that the opposition leader did not violate Zambia's electoral rules.

"Statutory declaration of assets and liabilities is not false declaration of assets and would not amount to a criminal offence. I find no consequences for false declaration of assets and liabilities," Mr Newa ruled.

"I uphold the defence's application that the indictment is defective and I therefore quash it," said Magistrate Newa. Mr Newa also refused a request by prosecutors to slam fresh charges against Mr Sata.

As Mr Sata was driven away from the court, his supporters embarked on long jubilations outside the court building. The opposition leader had gained a strong following during the election campaigns, which had polarised Zambian society.

One of Mr Sata's attorneys, Robert Simeza, believed that the charges were politically motivated purposely to damage his client's political career. He claimed that despite losing the polls, Mr Sata was remaining a favourite of the people.

He said they must legally test the state for malicious prosecution because they told them that the case was a political vendetta.

The opposition leader meanwhile has not faced charges for attacking the press during the election campaigns - an ugly affair that cost him the support from most of Zambia's independent newspapers, including the market leader, 'The Post'. Mr Sata had incited a crowd of followers to attack 'The Post' and its editor, alleging the independent newspaper had written negatively about him.

It remains unsure whether 'The Post' will press charges against Mr Sata, but editor Fred M'membe has made no such indications. Analysts hold such charges would stand a better chance at Lusaka courts than government attacks on the opposition leader.

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