According to a press release from former President Rupiah Banda’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam, the Chief Immigration Officer said he received “orders from a higher power” not to allow Banda to travel, despite the order from the Magistrate’s Court.
And unless he was talking to God, he was referring to President Michael Sata, who under Zambian law lacks any authority to override court decisions.
Over the past year, former President Banda has been engaged in a tense standoff with the current ruling party, as he is now facing an upcoming trial on corruption charges that his supporters say are politically motivated. In September of 2011, Banda stepped down and handed power over to President Sata.
Banda’s lawyer Amsterdam described the travel ban as “shameful and embarrassing.”
“Today’s incident at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka represents a complete breakdown of the rule of law in Zambia, and a further indication that former President Banda cannot expect a fair trial,” said Amsterdam. “This shameful and embarrassing conduct is the result of an authoritarian state acting under the orders of a frightened and enfeebled president who is willing to break the law, violate rights, and ignore the judicial process in order to attack his opponents.”
Amsterdam continued: “Keep in mind that former President Banda has never been convicted of any wrongdoing, recall that the accusations against him are completely suspect, and, judging by thoroughly illegal handling of the removal of his immunity, it appears the Patriotic Front has lost all credibility as normal democratic government. This is not a normal case, and this is not a normal government, and today’s outrageous defilement of the judicial system is yet another reminder of the destruction wrought upon Zambia’s image as a democracy.”