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PRISONS PARDON UPROAR

PRISONS PARDON UPROAR

BY NOEL IYOMBWA

THE pardoning of 60 prisoners including Keith Mukata and Mathew Mohan by President Edgar Lungu has been received with mixed feelings with Non-Governmental Organisations condemning the freeing of murder convicts, while some contend that there was nothing illegal about that.

And former Zambian ambassador to Nigeria George Mpombo said it was an assault on the Zambian constitution to criticize President Lungu’s pardoning of some prisoners because it was within his powers to do so.

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Among the notables pardoned was Facebook celebrity Conerlius Mulenga (Chellah Tukuta) jailed for criminal defamation as well as Patriotic Front member Chishimba Kambwili who was sentenced to two years for forgery by Magistrate David Simusamba. 

Mr Kambwili appealed the matter, which allowed him to be freed from prison.

Both Mr Kambwili and Tukuta were still facing more cases in court for various offenses.

Speaking in an interview Mr Mpombo said that the release of prisoners by President Lungu was legitimate, constitutional and within the law.

He said that it was common practice not only in Zambia for a leader to release some inmates before leaving office.

The former diplomat explained early this year former US President Donald Trump granted clemency to 143 people, using a final act of presidential power to extend mercy to former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon, well-connected celebrities and nonviolent drug offenders.

Mr Mpombo said that the practice was done in consultation with prison officials and other stakeholders.

He advised members of the public not to make the issue a subject for debate as there is nothing irregular.

“The pardoning is legitimate, the President used his constitutional powers to do that and it is common practice world over.

“Donald Trump released 140 prisoners 48 hours before leaving office including drug dealers, murderers among others so if America can do it what can stop Zambia from doing the same,“ he said.

Meanwhile, Human Rights activist Laura Miti has condemned the release of some Chinese nationals who were among those who have been pardoned.

In a twit Ms. Miti said that for seven years the country has had a President who can make such a callous decision. 

“Twenty and 21 on the list of pardoned prisoners are two Chinese who smashed the skull of a security guard they accused of stealing. 

“They have been in prison less than three years, for seven years we have had a President who can make such a callous decision. The murdered man’s family are in pain,” she said.

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