Zambian opposition leader Michael Sata has pleaded not guilty to charges of false declaration of assets. Appearing in a Lusaka court Wednesday, Sata also dismissed the charges as part of the Mwanawasa government?s political vendetta against him.  A conviction could end Sata?s political career since Zambian law bars convicts from public office. 

Michael Sata talked about the charges against him.

?This is the fourth time under this regime that I have been arrested. First, I was arrested for stealing a vehicle; I stayed in prison for twenty-five days. Then again I was arrested where they gave me a very abnormally stupid offense of espionage in my own country?. Then all of a sudden this thing has sprung up. But we are very confident we will defend this because there is nothing false about it,? he said.

Sata said what is happening to him is a mere politics of intimidation employed by the Mwanawasa government.

?This is more of a political intimidation the same way in what you saw in apartheid South Africa. The same way in what you saw in Rhodesia and currently what is going on in Iraq,? Sata noted.

He also said the charges are a political vendetta against him.

?There are so many people who are being arrested and detained for no apparent reason? This is political persecution because at the moment I?m the strongest opposition leader both in and outside parliament,? he said

Sata denied ever-defaming President Mwanawasa.

?I am very careful not to defame the president. If I would have defamed the president, there are appropriate offenses, which they would have brought against me? When I speak about the truth to say that our president can go to the United Kingdom when our people are dying from simple curable diseases like malaria...I don?t see any defamation in that,? he said.

Sata also denied President Mwanawasa?s accusation of disturbing public order and inciting violence.

?If I would have disturbed public order, if I would have incited the public, I?m sure they should have arrested me on something much more serious than this offense for which they are taking me to court,? Sata said.

He said he saved the country by calling for calm after the then candidate Mwanawasa was declared winner in the recent elections.

?I have saved this country because immediately they said President Mwanawasa has been declared a winner, I went on the governments broadcasting station and appealed for calm?but I cannot ignore the wrongs that are in the society. For example, I?m speaking to you on the Voice of America I don?t have the same freedom to speak on my own Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation,? he said.

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