The Zambian authorities must immediately drop all criminal charges against six activists who took part in peaceful protests that questioned exorbitant levels of government spending, Amnesty International said ahead of their trial on 25 June.
“The Zambian authorities must quash these charges which are clearly being used to silence any voice that dares to criticize the government or expose wrongdoing,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“These activists are being put in the dock solely for exercising their right to peaceful assembly. They have committed no crime, they have only demanded accountability from their leaders.”
The activists, including musician Fumba Chama who is known as Pilato, Lewis Mwape, Laura Miti, Sean Enock Tembo, Bornwell Mwewa and Mika Mwambazi have pleaded not guilty to charges of disobeying a lawful order after marching on parliament last September against what they said was the corrupt procurement of 42 fire trucks for US$42 million.
The reported cost of the trucks sparked public outcry over alleged misuse of public funds, resulting in the protests on 29 September 2017.
If convicted, the activists, who were beaten by arresting police officers, face up to two years in prison.
“The government must immediately stop this dangerous erosion of freedoms in Zambia by upholding human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” said Mr. Muchena.