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LONDON, January 9, 2013 – President Michael Sata and the Patriotic Front government of Zambia must immediately halt their unlawful arrests and prosecutions of journalists and opposition leaders, according to the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR).

“These politically motivated arrests represent a campaign of intimidation that violates the rights of all Zambian citizens to free and fair assembly and freedom of expression,” said Robert Amsterdam, international counsel to the CDDR. “It is absolutely unacceptable for any country calling itself a rule-of-law democracy to have the leadership behave with such impunity, violating both local and international law to persecute their opponents.”

On January 8th 2013, the leader of the opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) was arrested for the third time in less than two months. Dr. Mumba is being accused under the abuse of office clause for alleged conduct dating back to more than a year ago. Police have also threatened to arrest the broadcast journalist Chanda Chimba III, who produced several documentary films critical of President Sata in 2011. In the past year, the police also routinely ignored court orders to ban political rallies by opposition parties, including a joint peace rally planned at Mtendere by MMD, United Party for National Development (UPND), Alliance for Development and Democracy (ADD), United Liberal Party (ULP), and the Zambia Direct Democracy Movement (ZDDM).

“The PF government has no legal grounds to interfere with the democratic opposition in this manner, but rather are seeking a distraction from the failed economic policies behind the mealie-meal crisis,” Amsterdam said. “If they were serious about fighting corruption, the PF would not have a sitting minister of justice under investigation and would not threaten the Anti-Corruption Commission, ordering them to ask permission before investigating officials.”

Representing a broad array of opposition parties, political figures, and private citizens, Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR) is a legal defence alliance formed in Zambia in the fall of 2012 in response to increasing harassment and interference by the authorities and related parties. More information on the CDDR’s activities can be read at http://cddr-zambia.org.

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