Lusaka lawyer Makebi Zulu yesterday argued that his client, Michael Achiume, did not commit an offence when he alleged that President Michael Sata would die on Friday May 30, 2014 because everyone would eventually die.
Mr Zulu said this when he raised preliminary issues in a case in which Achiume, 43, of Kabwata site and Service is alleged to have published false statements likely to cause alarm and fear to the public.
It is alleged that Achiume published a false statement likely to cause alarm and fear to the public when he said President Michael Sata would die on Friday May 30, 2014.
Mr Zulu argued that Achiume only lied when he alleged that the President would die on Friday May 30 as he was still alive, but eventually the head of State would die.
Mr Zulu said this when he appeared before Lusaka Magistrate Irene Washimanga
He said if Achiume had named a bus driver as dying ‘tomorrow’, he could not have been facing the long arm of the law but it was unfortunate that he was in court because he made an opinion on a prominent person (the head of state).
He said according to Article 20 of the laws of Zambia, each and every person was entitled to freedom of expression and opinion and that it was unfair to arrest someone for his thoughts or indeed from expressing those thoughts.
Mr. Zulu further argued that if he alleged grey was white, then that would be his opinion and that if another thought grey was grey and felt offended of the assertion, then that would be going beyond Article 20.
He told the court that if someone claimed that a person was dead, it did not in any way cause alarm or fear to the public unless if one allege there was a bomb in a court room.
Mr. Zulu stated that the court had jurisdiction to quash an indictment whose particulars did not disclose an offence.
He said if court found that the indictment disclosed the offence then he would argue and apply for a constitutional reference which guaranteed every person the right to freedom of expression.
And Jonas Zimba from Makebi Zulu Advocates also asked the court to determine whether the indictment before court disclosed an offence.
He stated that the drafting of indictments provided that every charge or information shall be sufficient statement of a specific offence of which the accused is charged together with such particulars which may be necessary to the nature of the offence charged.
Mr Zimba said particulars of the offence must give reasonable information about the nature of the charge and should include the natural element of the charge.
He argued that the particulars on the indictment did not disclose the offence and it was not meant for the public or meant to intimidate or used for the purposes of advancing selfishness.
Mr.Zimba said the circumstances in which Achiume was charged does not apply to the members of the public but applied to media houses and media practitioners.
And when Magistrate Washimanga asked the state prosecutor for any objections, he told the court that he was seeking an adjournment as he needed more time to study the preliminary issues which were raised by the defence counsel.
The matter was adjourned to August 5, for continuation of trial.