Hakainde Hichilema’s lawyer Gilbert Phiri has condemned the move by the Judiciary to ban electronic gadgets such as cellphones and also subject defense lawyers to accreditation during the upcoming treason trial.
The Judiciary, through its spokesperson Veronica Chisambisha, has announced a series of restrictive measures for the long-awaited trial, citing security reasons and limited space in the Supreme Court.
The Judiciary has also ordered political party supporters and members of the public to stay away from the court premises or the vicinity of the court during the trial.
But Phiri has described the measures as shocking and unacceptable, accusing the Judiciary of being complicit in the violation of the rights of the accused persons.
“Most shockingly, they have intimated that they will accredit lawyers for the accused persons. According to them,the only available seating space is for 8 defence lawyers and 3 State Counsel! The State (DPP) will similarly have space for 3 State Counsel and 8 Prosecuting Counsel,” Phiri said.
“The raft of these measures are unacceptable and violate the rights of the accused persons. Under our constitution, especially under Article 18, an accused person has a right to retain counsel of his/her choice. If 100 lawyers are retained by accused persons, it is the duty of the Judiciary to facilitate the attendance of counsel and not to constrict the numbers by issuing limited accreditation cards. The Judiciary is being complicit in attempting to violate and undermine the rights of the accused persons. Their actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated!”
Phiri has charged that “forces controlling the judiciary” are scared of the real-time reporting of events in court by journalists, hence the move to ban modern gadgets.
“In this day and age, we cannot be told not to enter court without iPads, laptops etc! These are the tools we use in court. We stopped using pens a long time ago! We can’t be told not to use modern gadgets. From who is the Judiciary taking instructions?
“It is clear that the fear of whomever the Judiciary is taking instructions from is the real time reporting of events in court by journalists. It is clear that the forces instructing the Judiciary want this to be a “secret trial”! These draconian measures do not cast the Judiciary in good light. It appears there is a hidden executive hand dictating these unreasonable and draconian measures to them!” Phiri stated.