The Lusaka High Court has awarded compensatory damages to a marketeer who was wrongly arrested by police officers in 2017 on suspicion that she burnt Lusaka City Market because she is a UPND member.

In a judgement delivered on March 18, High Court judge Mapani Kawimbe ordered the Attorney General to award Emeldah Phiri compensatory damages which include aggravated and exemplary damages with interest from the date of the action, until final payment.

In this matter, Phiri claimed that she was wrongly arrested by police officers at Lusaka City Market on July 4, 2017, on suspicion that as a UPND member, she set the market on fire.

She was thereafter detained, kept in police cells without any reasonable or probable cause, and in inhumane conditions.

Aggrieved by the police officers’ actions, Phiri instituted the legal suit on October 6, 2017 against the Attorney General, seeking damages including aggravated and exemplary damages for false imprisonment.

Phiri also sought interest on all sums that would be found due and any other relief that the court would deem fit.

She was initially detained at City Market police post where she was tortured.

Thereafter, she was bundled into a police vehicle with heavy armed police officers and driven to her home in Garden compound.

Upon arrival at her house, police officers thoroughly searched her house without a warrant on suspicion that she removed her goods from the market before setting the inferno.

According to Phiri, nothing was recovered from her house but despite that, the relentless police officers took her to Force headquarters where she was kept in the CID room from 12:00 hours to 23:00 hours before being transfered to Kabwata police station where she was detained for eight days.

Phiri said she did not eat anything for the first two days of incarceration and she was further accused of burning the market when there was no evidence.

She added that she was, as a result, denied of her liberty from July 4 till 12, 2017 and she suffered loss and damage.

However, the attorney general denied her claims and said they had a probable and reasonable suspicion to suspect that Phiri had committed the offence.

On February 6, 2019, trial was held and Phiri led evidence through two witnesses, she also testified on her own behalf.

In her judgement, Justice Kawimbe said having established that Phiri was falsely imprisoned and kept in inhumane conditions, she found that she was entitled to compensatory damages which included an element of aggravated and exemplary damages.

She said the police officers’ conduct of searching Phiri’s house without a warrant, keeping her in custody without indicting her and placing her in filthy cells swarmed with flies, prompted the award.

“I hold that the plaintiff has proved her claim for false imprisonment against the defendant. I award her compensatory damages which should include aggravated and exemplary damages with interest from the date of this action until final payment to be assessed by the Learned Deputy Registrar,” ruled judge Kawimbe.