Chongwe Member of Parliament Sylvia Masebo and four others yesterday pleaded not guilty to charges of unlawful assembly after they were on Wednesday discharged on charges of unlawful procession and escaping from lawful custody.
Masebo and her co-accused denied the charge when they appeared before Magistrate Prince Mwiinga. They told the court they understood the charge levelled against them but denied committing the offence.
Earlier before they could take plea, one of Masebo’s defence lawyers Mr Yosa Yosa applied before court to have the plea adjourned as he had received instructions from the lead lawyer, Mr Robert Simeza, that his clients should not take plea because the defence were not in possession of the indictment.
Mr Yosa told the court that they needed time to study the indictment so that they could seek instructions and advice from their clients.
In objecting to the application, the State prosecutor argued that not being in possession of the indictment was not an excuse why the accused could not take plea as they could make the indictment available to the defence to which they could ask court for a 10-minute adjournment to study the charge and seek their clients’ instructions.
He added that the State was ready to proceed and the accused could take plea even before the indictment was studied as plea of guilty or not could be changed at any desired time.
In his ruling, Mr Mwiinga said he could not grant the defence’s application to have the plea adjourned because it was true that a plea of guilty or not could be changed at any desired time.
He instructed the State to give the indictment to the defence to study it for 10 minutes and get back to court for their clients’ plea.
In court to give Masebo support were former MMD national secretary Richard Kachingwe and UPND vice president and Kasama Member of Parliament Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, among others.
Particulars of the offence allege that Masebo, 52, Joyce Sakala, 37, Benson Mbewe, 37, Kennan Kabunda, 50, and Emmanuel Chembo, 47, on September 15, 2015 with intent to commit an offence or carry out some common purpose, jointly while acting together with other persons unknown did unlawfully assemble along the Nationalist and Independence Avenue roads, thereby conducting themselves in such a manner as to cause persons in the neighbourhood reasonable fear of the breach of peace.
The matter was adjourned to December 3 for mention and fixing of trial date.