By RABECCA CHIPANTA -
NDOLA principal resident magistrate John Mbuzi has said he cannot stop the police from mounting checkpoints as demanded by lawyers representing United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema and his vice Geoffrey Mwamba.
Hichilema and Mwamba are charged with three counts of seditious practices and unlawful assembly contrary to the law.
In counts one and two, Hichilema and Mwamba were charged individually with seditious practices.
In count three the duo was charged with unlawful assembly contrary to Section 75 as read with Section 74 of the Penal Code and regulation of the Public Order Act.
Following a complaint raised by defence lawyer Mulilo Kabesha in which he requested the reinforcement of the court’s earlier directive over police road blocks mounted on the way to Luanshya, magistrate Mbuzi said the checkpoints were normal and meant for security purposes.
“I have heard both parties. I moved from Ndola to Luanshya and only found one checkpoint, which I think is normal. These checkpoints are for security purposes. I will, therefore, not make any further orders than I did yesterday. We shall now proceed with the trial,” he said.
Earlier, Mr Kabesha said his clients were still being subjected to numerous checkpoints, and requested the court to enforce its earlier directive to stop police from intimidating the accused to give them leverage.
But in response, deputy chief State advocate Nkumbwiza Mumba said they were assured by police to work on concerns raised by the defence team and were informed that the road blocks and security checkpoints were normal.
“The police also expressed concern that the accused persons were trying to go through without stopping. For the shooting incident that was mentioned, they are still investigating. There is no gazzetted police between Mpongwe and Luanshya, so it is not clear where shots were fired,” she said.
Meanwhile, one of the lawyers Nelly Mutti requested for an adjournment to allow her to study the matter.
“Your Honour, I have been added to the defence team by our clients. However, I did not have time to study the indictment. Without the full instructions from my clients will amount to serious misconduct of my profession. I seek that this matter be adjourned to allow me to prepare for a full defence,” Ms Mutti said.
Magistrate Mbuzi adjourned the matter until March 22 and 23, 2017 for trial.
Meanwhile, Copperbelt Police Commissioner Charity Katanga has refuted claims by Hichilema and Mwamba that police officers had discharged live ammunition on them as they were en route to Luanshya from Lusaka for the court hearing on Tuesday.
She further said that no fracas ensued between the police and suspected UPND cadres.
Ms Katanga said the presence of police officers at the court premises was a normal trend aimed at maintaining law and order.
“The claims that the officers fired at the UPND leader and his vice are unfounded. I would also like to state that there was no fracas between the police officers and supporters of the UPND before, during and after the court sessions,” she said.