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Zambia’s Ex-President Banda Says He’s Being Persecuted

March 26 (Bloomberg) -- Zambia’s former president, Rupiah Banda, said political parties are being persecuted in the country as he was charged in court on the same day that two other opposition leaders appeared in separate cases.

Banda, who is 76, denied the charge of abuse of power in the Lusaka magistrate court today. He was arrested yesterday and is accused of benefiting from a government oil-procurement deal with Nigeria, according to Magistrate Joshua Banda, who isn’t related to the former president.

President Michael Sata, who defeated Banda in elections in 2011, has been criticized by opposition parties for attempting to return Zambia to a one-party state. Police have arrested and detained Nevers Mumba, the leader of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, the biggest opposition party, at least three times since November. Hakainde Hichilema, president of the United Party for National Development, has also been arrested at least twice under Sata’s rule.

“Personally, I read that the opposition is being persecuted,” Banda, who was wearing a beige suit and a pink shirt, told reporters outside the court today. “All of us are going through this process, there must be something we don’t understand. This never happened during my time.”

After his charges were read in court, Banda, who was previously leader of the MMD, sat with Mumba and Hichilema. His trial was adjourned to April 3.

“It’s not for the government to start interpreting matters before the courts,” George Chellah, Sata’s spokesman, said by mobile phone from Lusaka, the capital. “This is not the right time to politic. We respect our judicial process.”

The kwacha depreciated 0.7 percent to 5.41 per dollar, the lowest in almost a week, by 4:51 p.m. in Lusaka.

Mumba is facing corruption charges, while Hichilema is accused of defaming the president.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Hill in Lusaka at mhill58@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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