The repeated pattern of illegal interventions by the Patriotic Front (PF) government with regard to the passport of former Zambian President Rupiah Banda speaks volumes about the political persecution driving the state’s case against him, says his international lawyer Robert Amsterdam.
“These are willful actions of a criminal government, which believes it has the impunity to ignore court orders in order to attack and disparage one of the nation’s most distinguished statesmen, whom they see as a threat to their plans to return Zambia to a one-party state,” said Amsterdam. “There can be no plausible excuse for this continued manipulation of the former President Banda’s right to travel. It is a blatant and flagrant abuse of the law, and we intend to hold these PF officials accountable.”
Most recently, the PF government reportedly revoked the former president’s diplomatic passport, representing a violation of an act of parliament, the former presidents Benefits Act. On two previous occasions, the government ignored specific orders from the Lusaka High Court allowing former President Banda to travel abroad to attend several distinguished invitations. This past week, the Court ruled that the Government Joint Investigative Team must release Banda’s passport, while lawyers representing the former president have been repeatedly obstructed from obtaining his travel documents.
“These actions confirm that the PF government have moved toward a bona fide show trial state – one cannot take any claim they make at face value,” said Amsterdam.
The PF government, under the direction of President Michael Sata, Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba, and Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito, have embarked on a determined campaign to attack democratic opposition, including two separate politically motivated trials against former President Banda, says Amsterdam. These bogus cases and arrests are occurring in the context of repeated and unnecessary by-elections triggered by bribed defections to the ruling party, and numerous incidents of state-sponsored violence that has threatened the country’s political stability.
“The fact that the PF have to break the law in order to persecute former President Banda explains a lot about the lack of substantive grounds to their allegations,” said Amsterdam. “When a government acts like a criminal to attack its opponents, when it ignores court orders and sends its cadres out into the streets to wield violence over citizens, we are increasingly approaching something that can be described as a dictatorship. We intend to contribute a robust international effort to put an end to these abuses immediately, before it is too late.”