Lusaka Chief Resident Magistrate Joshua Banda has lambasted police for entering his Courtroom to serve a call out order on UPND president Hichilema during trial.
The Police want to arrest Hichilema because he went to tour Garden and Kalikiliki compounds where he was mobbed by a crowd protesting high prices of mealie meal and food generally.
Delivering his ruling after the defense team sought an adjournment, Magistrate Banda agreed with the defense team argument that the rules of natural justice demand that the accused should be in the right state of mind to stand trial and that the attempt by police disturbed Hichilema’s state of mind.
“I wasn’t in court when this thing happened but after hearing from both the defense and prosecution and especially that the state has apologized for the happening, It is clear that it happened. Whatever the Police wanted to do to someone who is in the dock is unacceptable and I will not disagree with the defense counsel that it is contemptuous” Magistrate Banda said.
He further said the court is a symbol of justice, peace and tranquility and directed the Police command to take note of the police officers behavior, because the accused was not in his right state of mind after being disturbed by the Police.
Earlier defense counsel Jack Mwimbu requested the court’s indulgence to adjourn proceedings to today because Mr. Hichilema was not in the right state of mind after Police from Force Headquarters entered the court and approached Mr. Hichilema in the dock with the view of serving him a callout to appear before the Police for touring Garden and Kalikiliki Compounds in Lusaka.
The incident occurred when Magistrate Banda stood down the matter momentarily to allow for defence counsel Sakwiba Sikota join the team.
The state prosecutors objected to the adjournment on grounds that the first witness Mr. Bikiloni Zimba a Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation Cameraman who was already on the Witness stand before court.
Magistrate Banda allowed the adjournment to 0900 hours today.
The state apologized on behalf of the police officers and Magistrate Banda said he would not tolerate lawlessness in his court.
And some civil society organisations have condemned the actions by the police.
“Such a bold move by the police is without foundation in law and seeks to send a message to any member of the judiciary dealing with politically sensitive cases,” said Robert Amsterdam, international counsel to the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR).
“Zambians are being deprived of an independent judiciary and rule of law when the police behave as though they are the armed wing of the Patriotic Front,” he said.
Hichilema is being tried for alleging that the PF government was training its youths in military warfare with the help of the Sudanese militia in Darfur.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge. The trial will continue this week.