Zambia drops charges against opposition leader

Zambian prosecutors dropped defamation charges against opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema on Tuesday, ending a highly charged and politically tinged case.

Hichilema, who leads the opposition United Party for National Development, was arrested in January and charged with making allegedly defamatory remarks against President Michael Sata, while campaigning in a Lusaka slum.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released on bail.

The case was withdrawn Tuesday after the prosecution made an application not to pursue the charges.

Hichilema told journalists he would not seek compensation.

"In our minds, we exercise prudence with the use of public finances even when the state is incompetent and persecuting us," he said.

Hichilema, who has been known to call Sata a dictator, had faced a jail sentence of at least three years if convicted.

In recent months, several politicians and journalists critical of President Michael Sata have been arrested and tried.

Prominent among them is ex-president Rupiah Banda, who has been stripped of immunity from prosecution and charged with graft.

Hichilema himself has been arrested multiple times and has directly been accused of corruption by Sata.

"He stole this money," Sata said in March.

"We have asked the director of public prosecution to see if we can prosecute him."