United Party for National Development (UPND) President Hakainde Hichilema today refused to take plea in a defamation case against President Michael Sata because the charge he was slapped with had been changed since his arrest.
According to the charge in court, Hichilema, on January 13 this year, with intent to bring the Sata into hatred, ridicule and contempt, did publish a defamatory statement which was covered in the Daily Nation of January 14 this year.
Hichilema’s lawyer Sakwiba Sikota told the court that the defence team needed more time to study the case and take further instructions from their client over the matter.
In his application Mr. Sikota asked the court to adjourn the matter as the charges levelled against his client at the court and those he was charged with when he was arrested at woodlands police station were different.
“Your honour, we have just been given the new indictment by the State a few minutes ago and we only have instructions based on the earlier indictment when he appeared in another court, we noted that it is different from the one he was arrested for,” he said.
“It is for the reason that we apply to have the matter adjourned to allow us obtain new instructionsand to study the new offence before our client takes plea,” Mr Sikota said.
Other defence lawyers include, Jack Mwiimbu, Martha Mushipe, Paul Katupisha and Dindi and Company.
And State prosecutor Simon Tembo said the indictment was the same except for minor changes but did not object to the application though emphasised that plea be taken as soon as possible because the matter had dragged.
This prompted Judge Boniface Mwiinga to adjourn the case in order to allow the defence team study the matter as requested.
In granting the application, magistrate Boniface Mwiinga said the accused should understand the charge he is facing before taking a fresh plea.
“I do hereby grant the application to the defence as prayed. This is to enable them direct their minds to the fresh charge and to also obtain new instructions from their client as well as studying the charge before taking plea,” he said.
The matter was adjourned to January 28 for plea.