Zambia opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, arrested last week on suspicion of treason, was charged in court with treason.
Hichilema’s arrest has raised political tension in Zambia and the new development is likely to worsen the situation.
Relations between the government and opposition have been tense since last August, when President Edgar Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF), party beat Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND), in a vote the opposition says was rigged.
Police raided Hichilema’s house last Tuesday to arrest him and he was initially charged with treason for obstructing Lungu’s motorcade.
In a court appearance on Tuesday, he was charged with treason on the grounds that he “together with other persons did prepare or endeavoured to overthrow by unlawful means the government” between Oct. 10, 2016 and April 8, 2017.
The charge in the motorcade incident was changed to disobeying instructions from a police officer by failing to give way to a presidential motorcade and using insulting language.
The court also directed that Hichilema should be allowed visits by his children and at least five other family members following an application by his defense lawyers, who said he was only allowed to see his wife.
Dressed in a red coat and khaki shirt, Hichilema waved his party symbol to supporters in court and stood throughout the deliberations in spite of the magistrate asking the accused to take their seats.
The two men are old rivals. Lungu has beaten Hichilema, an economist and wealthy businessman who goes by “HH”, narrowly in two presidential elections, including the one.