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Zambian court delays separatists' treason trial

03 October 2013, 09:09

Lusaka - The trial of more than 70 Zambian separatists on charges of treason was postponed Wednesday after the accused failed to show up in court, state media said.

Magistrate Bernard Mwandiwa adjourned the trial at the Mongu High Court until 10 October, according to the Zambia News and Information Services (ZANIS).

A total of 72 defendants, out of 83 arrested in a recent crackdown on secessionists, had been due to appear for the start of the proceedings.

The accused, mostly from the Lozi tribe, want Barotseland state in the country's impoverished west to secede from the copper-rich southern African country.

A treason conviction in Zambia could carry the death penalty.

Barotseland was originally a protectorate of Britain, but entered into a deal at the end of colonial rule in 1964 to become a province of Zambia.

Under the agreement signed with independent Zambia's first president, Kenneth Kaunda, the region was supposed to have limited self-rule, but the Lozi say that agreement was never respected.

The issue quietened down during the 1990s.

Last year, President Michael Sata ordered the military to clamp down on secession protests.

Sata has argued that making any concessions to the Lozi could create a dangerous precedent in a country with more than 70 different ethnic groups.



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