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Zambian Opposition leader Jailed for Insulting President

An opposition leader in Zambia was arrested Monday for defaming President Edgar Lungu by saying he went out clubbing and playing pool at taxpayers’ expense while on holiday, police said.

The move against Eric Chanda of the 4th Revolution Party, over comments made almost a year ago, is seen as part of a clampdown on the president’s critics ahead of elections in August.

"Mr Eric Chanda has been formally arrested for the offence of defamation of the president," said police spokeswoman Charity Chanda.

"This is in connection with an article published on the 9th May 2015 in the Post newspaper indicating that the president had gone to Mfuwe to play pool and clubbing at the expense of taxpayers’ money.

"He was arrested this morning and is currently in custody. He will appear in court soon," she said.

If convicted, Chanda, who launched his party last year, could face a sentence of seven years in prison.

"The offence was committed last year but why did they not bring up there and then?" said Alex Ngoma, a political science lecturer at the University of Zambia.

"One would not be wrong to conclude that they are targeting the opposition,"

Another leading Zambian opposition politician, Geoffrey Mwamba, vice president of the United Party for National Development (UPND), was arrested twice earlier this month.

He faces charges of training a private militia and threatening the president. Both trials are yet to begin.

A defiant Mwamba has accused Lungu of persecuting the opposition as tensions rise in the run up to the August 11 presidential vote.

Lungu’s biggest challenge is expected to be the UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, who came second by a thin margin in last year’s presidential by-election after the sudden death of leader Michael Sata.

If convicted, Mwamba faces at least seven years in jail.

By Robert Muriisa.

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