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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 13:05 GMT
Zambia newspaper editor arrested
President Levy Mwanawasa
Defaming the president is a criminal offence in Zambia
The editor of Zambia's only privately owned newspaper has been briefly detained by police and charged with defaming President Levy Mwanawasa.

Such a stupid charge can only be originated by senseless people with nothing, or very little, to do

Post editor Fred M'membe

The arrest of Fred M'membe, editor of The Post, followed the publication last week of a story which quoted an opposition lawmaker as saying Mr Mwanawasa was a "cabbage."

The police have also issued a summons for Dipak Patel, the opposition lawmaker quoted in the Post article.

The description of the president became commonplace among opposition leaders during the run up to December's elections, which they say were rigged.

The president is prone to verbal slip-ups and suffered from poor health following a road accident 10 years ago.

Due in court

The Post reported that Mr M'membe told the arresting officer that the charge was a "sheer waste of his time".

"Such a stupid charge can only be originated by senseless people with nothing, or very little, to do," he was quoted as saying.

A deputy news editor at the Post, Amos Malupenga, told the AFP news agency that Mr M'membe was detained for some hours until lawyers set bail for him.

"He should be appearing in court soon," he was quoted as saying.

Another court case is pending against Mr M'membe for a similar offence after he was arrested last year for calling former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba a thief.

See also:

06 Feb 02 | Africa
Zambian opposition loses key vote
07 Jan 02 | Africa
Familiar look to Zambian cabinet
03 Jan 02 | Africa
Zambian leader's poisoned chalice
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