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Zambia bails opposition leader charged with defaming president

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LUSAKA (Reuters) – A Zambian court on Friday charged the leader of a small opposition party with defaming President Edgar Lungu, after he allegedly referred to the head of state as a dog.

Chishimba Kambwili, who denied the charge and was released on bail, was arrested on Wednesday, his lawyer said, two days after the state registrar effectively shut down his National Democratic Congress (NDC) party by declaring its constitution flawed.

Kambwili has said he will challenge that decision in court.

He and other opposition politicians have accused Lungu of cracking down on dissent. The government denies this and says it protects free speech.

The NDC broke away from Lungu’s Patriotic Front in 2016 and took its first seat in a parliamentary by-election in April in the country’s copper-producing heartland.

Kambwili is accused of having defamed the president by referring to “dogs from Chawama” in a video that went viral, his lawyer Christopher Mundia told Reuters. Chawama is a residential area in the capital Lusaka where Lungu previously lived and served as a lawmaker.

Magistrate Lameck Mwale adjourned Kambwili’s case to Sept. 30 and granted him bail until then with a surety of 50,000 kwacha (around $3,820).

Kambwili told reporters following his arrest that his comments in the video in the local Bemba language had been misunderstood. He did not explain what he meant.

(Repirting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Alexander Winning and John Stonestreet)

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