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Zambian Opposition leader Free but for a Moment

A Zambian court Thursday dismissed charges against main opposition leader Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front party. In her ruling, Magistrate Sharon Newa said making false declaration of assets and liabilities did not constitute a criminal offense under electoral laws. Supporters of Mr. Sata are urging the court to award government damages to the opposition leader for his legal costs.

Meanwhile, Sata is expected in court today on charges of defaming President Levi Mwanawasa. Guy Scott is Patriotic Front general secretary. He talked about the Zambian court’s ruling.

“There are several charges against Sata that have been kind of developing over the years, which has been slowed up or sped up, according to what political exigencies dictate. And this particular one refers to a declaration of his assets and his liability. I mean his financial position that he made as part of nominating himself as a presidential candidate,” he said.

Scott said government prosecutors were too happy to silence Sata, that they made mistakes in charging him.

“They were so keen to get at him that they confuse the question of the assets and liability because what Sata had done was to say that somebody owed him some money after a court case. And the guy complained that he does not owe money that hasn’t been determined yet…The magistrate agreed that there had been a mess up,” Scott noted.

He said the court had a problem with the section under which Sata was charged, and that the punishment prosecutors were advocating was not commensurate with the alleged crime.

“The basis of the decision was the section under which he was charged, and the details of the offense bore no relationship to each other. It’s like I charge you for murder, and then say you stole my lawn mower. That actual fact doesn’t relate to the offense in the law,” Scott said.

He said though Sata is expected to be exonerated, he is awaiting other trumped up charges to come up in the future.

“ He grinned and we were expecting that verdict. We are due back in court, where the state has suddenly re-awakened the case relating to our allegedly conspiring to defame the President eleven months ago. I’m sure if our lawyer manages to get us out of that particular pitfall, there would be another charge next week. I mean this is the game,” he said.

Scott accused the Mwanawasa-led government of doing everything it takes to put opposition leader Sata behind bars.

“I think it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that they want to lock up Mr. Sata basically. I would say that that would not escape the attention of a three-year-old child who is acquainted with the facts,” Scott said.

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