(Corrects president's name to Edgar in third paragraph)
* Political tensions high in Africa's No. 2 copper producer
* Lawyer says blocked from seeing detained opposition leader
* Police deny they are barring such access
By Chris Mfula
LUSAKA, April 13 Zambian police on Thursday
denied the main opposition party's claims that its detained
leader Hakainde Hichilema had been denied access to his lawyers
and family but his lawyer insisted this was the case.
Hichilema was arrested on Tuesday and charged with treason
for allegedly obstructing Lungu's motorcade, raising the
political temperature further.
Relations between government and opposition in Africa's No.
2 copper producing country have been tense since August, when
President Edgar Lungu's Patriotic Front (PF) party beat
Hichilema's United Party for National Development (UPND) in a
vote the opposition says was rigged.
The two men are old rivals and Lungu has beaten Hichilema
narrowly in two presidential elections, including last year's by
a razor-thin margin.
"We have not blocked lawyers and Mr Hichilema's members of
the family from visiting him because that is his constitutional
right," police spokeswoman Esther Mwaata-Katongo said,
responding to a claim by the UPND.
Hichilema's lawyer Jack Mwiimbu said he had seen his client
on Wednesday but had since been prevented from visiting him.
"There are instructions for him not to be seen by anybody
without authority from police headquarters. We have therefore
started processing court papers. We want the court to compel the
police to allow us to see our client," Mwiimbu told Reuters.
Mwiimbu also said Hichilema had complained on Wednesday of
feeling unwell after police fired tear gas into his house when
he was arrested.
On Saturday, Lungu passed through Mongu, 500 km (300 miles)
west of the capital Lusaka, and his motorcade was obstructed
because Hichilema refused to give way, police said.
Zambia's economy has been depressed for years by low
commodity prices, mine closures, rising unemployment, power
shortages and soaring food prices that Hichilema blames on
mismanagement by Lungu.
(Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by James Macharia and Tom