Gregory Chifire

Zambia’s Supreme Court on Friday jailed a human rights activist for contempt of court after he accused the judiciary of corruption.

Gregory Chifire, director of the Southern African Network Against Corruption, had questioned one of the court’s rulings earlier this year in which it overturned a lower court’s decision involving two large corporations – Stanbic commercial bank and Savenda Management Services.

Chifire had suggested that the judges involved be investigated as their ruling had “omitted very crucial evidence”.

The Supreme Court on Friday found Chifire “guilty of contempt of court” and sentenced him to six years imprisonment on each of the four counts.

He was sentenced in absentia and the terms will run concurrently from the day he enters prison.

The charges arose after Chifire wrote a letter to the country’s chief justice alleging that the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Savenda case was tainted. It was also based on his quotes in two separate news stories, one of which was headlined: “Judiciary, one of the most corrupt in Zambia”.

In the initial ruling, the High Court found that the bank had wrongly referred Savenda for defaulting on a bank loan. But the bank appealed to the Supreme Court, which overturned the verdict.

Earlier this week, global rights watchdog Amnesty International denounced the trial as “grossly unfair” and said the four charges against Chifire were “a total fabrication”.

“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, the watchdog’s regional director for Southern Africa.

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