A Zambian judge Thursday ordered former President Frederic Chiluba to stand trial for allegedly stealing about 488 thousand dollars during his 10-year rule. The judge rejected arguments from Chiluba’s lawyers and doctors that the former president is too sick to face prosecution over graft charges. Sources say state prosecutors proposed to make available a video link from the court to the former president’s house to make it possible for the trial to continue. But Chiluba’s lawyers have rejected the video link suggestion, claming it is unconstitutional.
Emmanuel Mwamba is the spokesman for Ex-President Chiluba. From the capital Lusaka, he told VOA the former president is not fit to stand trial.
“There was a doctor’s report tendered to the court today, which has stated that Dr. Chiluba is not fit to stand trial. However, the prosecution said this matter has to go ahead because it has been outstanding for a long time, and in the interest of the other accused and the interest of the state. And the prosecution contended that they could provide Dr. Chiluba with facilities to enable him attend trial,” Mwamba pointed out.
He said the prosecutors suggested a video link that the to expedite the former president’s trial.
“In this case they proposed a video link to his (Chiluba) house to be in conference with the court when it is sitting. And the court ruled that the trial should go ahead under the arrangement of a video link feed, which should be linked to Dr. Chiluba’s house to the court,” he said.
Mwamba reiterated that the former president has a chronic heart condition and therefore is not fit to stand trial.
“Our concern is that Dr. Chiluba is not fit to stand trial as the doctors have stated, and whether by video conference or in person, he is still not fit to stand trial because he is unwell. So our lawyers are looking at a way of going ahead with this matter,” he noted.
He said the prosecutor’s suggestion of a video link to aid the trial contravenes the Zambia’s constitution.
“Our laws do not provide that trial can go ahead without the physical presence of an accused person. In fact, our laws do not provide for this video link; our laws have not moved with technology. So the difficulty we are having is what do we do? But our concern is Dr. Chiluba’s health, if the doctors are saying he is not fit to stand trial, he is not fit to stand trial,” He said.
Mwamba said the judge ruled that even though the former president’s trial should proceed, his health should not be compromised.
“The judge has recognized the submission by the team of doctors, which has stated that Dr. Chiluba is not fit to stand trial. But if you want this trial to proceed, it’s imperative that you take into account his (Chiluba’s) health. He (judge) recommended that for example he (Chiluba) should not be disturbed in anyway, that is why the prosecution are looking at this proposal that under the circumstances, the trial should go through a video link where Dr. Chiluba’s health is not disturbed,” Mwamba said.
He said the former president’s defense team is going to appeal Thursday’s ruling.
“The judge ruled that we have the right to go to an appeals court in this matter… the lawyers contend that Dr. Chiluba is not fit to stand trial, and the proposed video link is contrary to the provisions of the laws of this country,” he said.