Zambia’s most famous coup-plotter, who assembled 54 soldiers to forcible remove former leader Frederick Chiluba from power in 1997 has been set free by that country’s Home Affairs department on humanitarian grounds.
In 1997, Stephen Lungu, famously known as Captain Solo led 54 soldiers in an attempt to topple then president Chiluba.
Home Affairs minister Mkhondo Lungu, in a media statement on Wednesday, December 29 announced that the release of ex-soldier Lungu was in accordance with the Prisons Amendment Act of 2004.
The coup mastermind was stripped of his military rank after the coup and sentenced to death in 1997 for treason, reports say.
The coup plotters – 54 soldiers – in 2002 appealed against the death sentence, during when Lungu told the court that his reasons for staging the coup
to change the government of Chiluba were well-founded.
But according reports, Lunga had, during the trial, asked for forgiveness on his own behalf and that of the other soldiers whom he said were innocent.
The Late President Levy Mwanawasa commuted Lungu’s death sentence to 20
years after which he was due for discharge from prison on February 28, 2011.
In 2004, about 14 junior soldiers, who were convicted for their role in the foiled 1997 military coup were released after serving one-third of their 10-year prison sentences.
However, a government reports released in 2004 revealed that the coup plotters were severely mentally and physically tortured.
The report says that contrary to police claims, torture included beatings with wire cables, steel rods and rifle butts. The prisoners were also subjected to electric shocks, sexual harassment and suffocation.
It is believed that many of the suspects who had suffered torture at the hands of security personnel had been unable to stand or walk, and had to be supported or crawl back to their detention cells.
Having established that serious torture did take place, the commission recommended that the government should pay the 79 suspects of the 1997
failed coup attempt a US$220,000 compensation.