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Radio station manager detained overnight, charged and released

(MISA/IFEX) - On 13 November 2008, Fr Frank Bwalya, station manager of the Catholic radio station Radio Icengelo in Kitwe, was released from detention after a night at Kalulushi Police station and has been slapped with three charges for disturbing the country's peace as a result of a special post-election radio programme he has been running for two weeks.

In a phone interview with MISA Zambia on 13 November, Bwalya said that he was taken to the police and was asked to stop running the programmes but he refused, and hence the police charged him with the three violations.

"The police picked me up at the station and took me for questioning, they asked me to stop running the programme but I refused and decided I would remain there at the station. This forced them to lay three charges against me bordering on breaching [the] peace," Bwalya said.

The police recorded a warn and caution statement from Bwalya on 13 November and he will appear in court on 27 November.

Meanwhile, residents in Kitwe rioted after word went round that Bwalya had been arrested. According to the "Zambia Daily Mail" of 14 November, 38 people were arrested by the riot police. The incident was confirmed by Police Commissioner Francis Kabonde, who was in the company of Copperbelt Police Chief Antonniel Mutentwa.

During the riot, several shops were destroyed in Kitwe and a baby was rushed to the hospital because of the effect of the tear gas fired by the police. Kabonde said the riot was caused by bus drivers who were honking and skidding their tires, causing hooligans to take advantage of the situation.

Kabonde told journalists that police had earlier warned Bwalya not to issue statements that were allegedly intended to promote hostility in communities.

Bwalya denied inciting people to riot but said people could do what they wanted to do with the truth. He said he had spoken alone on a live programme and said, among other things, that Zambia would never have a free and fair election if it maintained the electoral laws it has.

The police charged him with making statements that are likely to cause hostility between groups within the country. He was also charged for alleging that the elections were fraudulent. The third charge was based on his statement that President Rupiah Banda was not elected legitimately.

Bwalya accused the government of using the arrest as a suppression tool to control people's minds.

"My arrest is a form of suppression of free minds. It's meant to make people quiet when wrong things are happening," he said and added that his detention was illegal.

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