Trial in the matter in which UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is accused of issuing and causing to publish false and alarming news yesterday failed to take off because defence lawyers protested harassment at the hands of police.
The matter which came before Lusaka Magistrate Aridah Chulu could not proceed after defence lawyers Sakwiba Sikota, Martha Mushipe, Jack Mwiimbu and Keith Mweemba complained about their harassment and brutal attacks on the UPND cadres and Mr. Hichilema’s supporters prior to court hearing.
Mr. Sikota said he has been practicing for 31 years but has never witnessed such levels of harassment which led to him being disoriented and could not ably defend his client.
Ms. Mushipe submitted that each person had a right to a quick and fair trial but the battalion of police caused panic and urged that they be removed.
Mr. Mwiimbu submitted that the only way forward was to adjourn the matter as he was not psychologically prepared to defend his client who was entitled to legal representation while Mr. Mweemba asked the court to provide a conducive environment, saying justice must not only be done but must manifestly be seen to be done. He argued that his client was entitled to adequate legal representation.
But the state prosecutor objected to the application saying that the adjournment would delay the matter which was ready to commence today. She applied for the matter to proceed because by the time the alleged intimidation and harassment was taking place they were inside the court room and distanced the proceedings.
The state further submitted that the matter has dragged on for a long time and it was only fair that the court proceeds , but this drew a sharp reaction from Mr. Mweemba who argued that the previous adjournments were all as a result of the state not being ready. He said that what was good for goose must be good for the gander. The court adjourned the matter to 15th and 16th May for trial and continued trial respectively.
Hichilema who looked calm before the magistrate, is charged with the said offence contrary to section 67 of the penal code. He is alleged to have issued a statement that PF had sponsored party youths to be trained as militia men in the war torn Sudan but the ruling party denied the said military training.