By Staff Reporter
Amnesty International has asked the Zambian government to immediately release Kwalela Kafunya, a medical doctor who was jailed for ‘insulting’ President Edgar Lungu.
Kafunya, who has been in detention since 8 May 2017, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment on January 10 this year after a grossly unfair trial.
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,” according to Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“The Zambian authorities are using social media as a tool to crack down on freedom of expression. Kwalela Kafunya’s plight is sadly typical of the growing criminalisation of dissent in Zambia. He must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Amnesty argued that Kafunya’s trial was compromised by a number of failings.
The organization stated that police investigation into his case was incomplete and still ongoing during the trial proceedings, while the presence in court of officials from the President’s Office and supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front might have applied undue pressure on the presiding magistrate.
Kafunya was accused of creating a false Facebook account lampooning Lungu, posting disturbing remarks and insults, and digitally altering the president’s image.
His sentence was broken down into three parts.
He was given a two-year sentence for ‘defamation’, another two years for ‘giving false information to a public officer’ and three years for ‘written threat to murder’.
Throughout the trial Kafunya maintained that he had never operated a false Facebook account or published anything that could be considered defamatory against Lungu.