Amnesty International Demands Lungu Release Doctor Jailed for Insulting Him
Ammesty International has called for the immediate and unconditional release of Kwalela Kafunya, a medical doctor who is entering his second year in prison in Zambia on charges of “insulting the President”.
In a statement, Amnesty International Southern Africa media manager Robert Shivambu stated that the ruling Patriotic Front might have applied undue pressure on the presiding magistrate.
Dr Kafunya, who has been in detention since May 8, 2017, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in January this year. His arrest followed allegations that he had made derogatory comments about the President on Facebook.
“Dr Kwalela Kafunya has committed no crime yet he has not set foot outside of prison for more than a year. Seven years in jail for ‘insulting the president’ is an outrageous sentence,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for Southern Africa.
Amnesty stated that Dr Kafunya’s trial was compromised by a number of failings.
“The police investigation into his case was incomplete and still on-going during the trial proceedings, while the presence in court of officials from the President’s Office and supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front may have applied undue pressure on the presiding magistrate,” it stated.
Dr Kafunya was accused of creating a false Facebook account lampooning President Lungu, posting disturbing remarks and insults, and digitally altering the President’s image. Throughout the trial, Dr Kafunya maintained that he had never operated a false Facebook account or published anything that could be considered defamatory against President Lungu.
President Lungu and the PF government are under increased scrutiny from international bodies and civil societies following an increasingly aggressive policy against media and citizens who are critical of the government online.