TWENTY-THREE people, including a Lusaka-based police officer, charged with treason were on February 25 discharged but 20 of them were later re-arrested and indicted on lesser charges.
The 20 accused persons have been charged with being in possession of offensive weapons or materials contrary to section 76 of the Penal Code chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia.
They have also been charged with riotous behaviour contrary to section 85 (1) of the Penal Code Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia.
The three who walked to freedom are Lusaka-based police officer Maybin Sikwa, Wamuleme Wamuleme and Mwiya Sihope of Mongu.
Principal resident magistrate Sharon Newa discontinued the treason case of the 23 but the police moved them to police headquarters where 20 were re-arrested and indicted on fresh charges.
Discharging Mr Sikwa and the 22 others, Mrs Newa said the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has entered a nolle prosequi in the treason case to discontinue the matter.
Mr Sikwa and 22 others were separately charged with treason contrary to section 43 (1) (c) of the Penal Code chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia.
It is alleged that the suspects, being Zambian citizens, while acting with other unknown people, tried or prepared to procure by force the establishment of a Barotseland State in Western Province.
Mr Sikwa and 22 others are alleged to have committed the offence in Lusaka, Senanga and Mongu districts between October 23, 2010 and January 12, 2011.
“The DPP has entered a nolle prosequi in your case, meaning he has stopped the matter against you.
This, however, does not mean you have been acquitted because the State can re-arrest you and charge you with a similar offence,” Mrs Newa said.
She said Mr Sikwa and others have been discharged under section 81 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
But before Mr Sikwa could move out of the dock, public prosecutor Mwewa Musonda told him to get back into the dock because the State was still considering new charges.
She said the discharge of the 22 is not an acquittal and if the State wants to re-arrest them, it can do so as this is within their jurisdiction.
Mrs Newa said the DPP has issued instructions to free the 22 and if defence lawyers were aggrieved, they should channel their concerns to appropriate institutions and not the court.
Earlier, one of the defence lawyers, Rodger Chongwe, said the defence team has welcomed the DPP’s decision to enter a nolle prosequi but there was a danger of the accused being re-arrested.
Dr Chongwe said re-arresting the accused immediately after being released had no constitutional validity.
He said the accused did not pose a threat of fleeing the country because most of them are villagers who do not have passports and are of fixed abode.
But Mr Musonda said the State could not release the accused because some of them would be slapped with new charges and the police action to keep them in custody was within its jurisdiction.
Police spokesperson Ndandula Siamana confirmed that 20 suspects were re-arrested. They will be transported to Mumbwa.
There was a heavy presence of police officers at the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court complex to prevent the accused from escaping.