Police teargased opposition leader's house in a midnight raid

Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has been detained and questioned by police for committing treason, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Mr Hichilema was detained after armed police raided his family home, during which teargas canisters were thrown inside.

The alleged incident took place in Limulunga, some 19.5 kilometers from Mongu, the provincial capital of Western Zambia, where the president was invited to attend the Kuomboka Ceremony over the weekend. His attempts to mount a legal challenge have so far been unsuccessful.

Charles Kakoma, a UPND spokesman, said police broke doors before raiding Hichilema's house in an exclusive suburb of Lusaka.

The latest arrest marks a spike in the confrontation between HH, as the opposition leader is known, and Lungu, whom Hichilema refuses to recognize because he says the August elections he narrowly lost by were fraudulent.

"The police have not told us what they are looking for".

On Sunday, presidential spokesman Amos Chanda said in a statement Hichilema had obstructed Lungu's motorcade, saying Hichilema's motorcade maintained its lane instead of getting off the road. "The matter that HH and his vice president Geoffrey Mwamba are following up in the High Court is whether or not they were given their right to be heard by the Constitutional Court", said the Minister.

"They broke the house, tear-gassed the family including small children", said Stephen Katuka. "His wife fainted three times last night because of the tear gas", Mwiimbu told Reuters.

The law enforcement operation comes two days after Hichilema - a perennial presidential candidate and leader of the United Party for National Development - and his supporters refused to allow free passage to President Edgar Lungu's motorcade as both groups traveled to the same function. Under the country's penal code, treason carries a death sentence.

Hichilema, 54, was last arrested in October over allegations of unlawful assembly, and says he's been detained at least 16 times in the past five years.

  • Leroy Wright