A Zambian human rights activist is facing jail simply for accusing the country’s judiciary of corruption, Amnesty International said today.
Gregory Chifire’s verdict and sentencing are due to be delivered on 23 November following a grossly unfair trial on four trumped-up contempt of court charges.
“This trial is an affront to the right to freedom of expression. Gregory Chifire’s only ‘crime’ has been to ask the Zambian judiciary to ensure accountability within its ranks,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“The contempt of court charges against Gregory Chifire are a total fabrication. They make a mockery of justice and must be dropped immediately.”
The four contempt of court charges against Chifire, the director of the Southern Africa Network Against Corruption (SANAC), emanate from his questioning of a Supreme Court judgement handed down in March 2018 involving two large corporations.
The case involved a local bank, Stanbic, referring a local company, Savenda, to a credit bureau for blacklisting on allegations that it defaulted on a loan repayment.
In a letter to Zambia’s chief justice, Gregory Chifire described the judgment as having “omitted very crucial evidence” that formed the basis for the awarding of damages to Savenda and asked for the judges suspected to be responsible to be investigated.
He was summoned to appear in court on 17 July and later faced an unfair trial. The hearing of his case was concluded on 19 September.
“The Zambian authorities should be supporting the free exercise of the right to freedom of expression, not supressing it. Gregory’s case smacks of censorship and victimisation, designed to silence his activism work,” said Deprose Muchena.