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Zambian Police Free Opposition Leader Accused of Defaming President

FILE - Zambian President Edgar Lungu gives a press briefing at the State House in Lusaka, Zambia, July 6, 2017. Police in Zambia on Thursday freed opposition leader Saviour Chishimba, who had been arrested a week earlier on accusations of defaming Lungu.

Police in Zambia freed an opposition leader on Thursday after holding him in detention for a week on accusations of defaming President Edgar Lungu, an offense that carries a maximum five-year prison term.

Police arrested United Progressive Party leader Saviour Chishimba last Thursday and said he would be charged with defaming the president.

"We have discontinued the case," police spokeswoman Esther Mwaata-Katongo said in a statement, without giving any reasons.

Chishimba hit the headlines in July after criticizing Lungu's decision to impose emergency powers and suggesting the president should go to hospital for mental tests.

Political tensions in Zambia, once seen as one of Africa's more stable and functional democracies, have been rising since main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema was arrested on treason charges in April.