Zambia’s parliament has suspended 48 opposition lawmakers for boycotting a speech by President President Edgar Lungu, widening a political rift that has alarmed rights groups.
The Parliament’s speaker barred the United Party for National Development (UPND) politicians from taking their seats for 30 days, a move that banned them from the building and stopped their pay.
Their party, which was defeated in August elections that it said were rigged, called the suspensions unconstitutional.
The lawmakers boycotted Lungu’s address at the official opening of the assembly in March, saying they did not recognise him as leader.
A month later, the UPND’s leader, Hakainde Hichilema, and five others were arrested and charged with treason after a column of opposition vehicles failed to make way for Lungu’s motorcade.
Amnesty International has said the treason charges are “trumped up” and called for the politicians’ release.
Parliament speaker Patrick Matibini told the opposition lawmakers: “I challenge you to resign on moral grounds if you do not recognise that there is a legitimately elected government.”
The suspensions affected 48 of the party’s 58 MPs.
The remaining 10 had officially excused themselves from attending parliament on the day of Lungu’s speech and were not included in the suspension.
Hichilema was moved from a prison in Lusaka to a maximum security facility outside the capital on June 9.
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