The treason charge against Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema is created to intimidate him and others, says Amnesty International. The detained opposition leader is alleged to have attempted to block Zambian President Edgar Lungu's motorcade, which was travelling on the same road.
Days later, police stormed into his upscale Lusaka home, sprayed tear gas and hauled Hichilema away.
Zambia's High Commissioner in South Africa, Emmanuel Mwamba, on Friday said Maimane was deported from Zambia because he intended pressurising the courts to release Hichilema. Hichilema has rejected the charges. "But a traffic offense has been conflated into a treason case, a non-bailable offense".
The opposition says the vote was rigged, but Hichilema has so far failed to successfully challenge the legality of the result.
Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, executive director of the Southern Africa Litigation Center, said the ruling follows basic legal procedures.
Hichilema sat in court looking composed in a red shirt.
"Hakainde Hichilema and his five employees are now undergoing persecution through prosecution and the charge against them must be dropped".
He has adjourned the matter to June 12, 2017 for mention.
He said that the instructions to refer the matter to the High Court was never questioned.
On the eve of Hichilema's Friday court appearance, the plot spilled over Zambia's borders.
AFP | Zambian officials barred South Africa's main opposition leader from entering the country Thursday, his party said, claiming he was blocked over his support for an imprisoned Zambian opposition leader.
It is for these reasons I chose to attend the trial of Mr Hichilema, in order to show solidarity with him and with the project of building and deepening democracy that we are engaged in across the continent.
Zambia's government has not yet commented on the statement by South Africa's main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) that its leader had been expelled.
Maimane arrived at the Zambian High Commission in Pretoria on Friday morning to demand answers as to why he was thrown out of the country. "But we advised him that there were concerns over his statements and utterances, especially regarding the sanctity of our courts", said Mwamba, according to African News Agency.
"His visit was to go and visit his colleague [Hakainde Hichilema leader of largest Zambian opposition United Party for National Development UPNP] in solidarity and we found nothing wrong with that".