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Former Zambian First Lady's Lawyers Optimistic She'll be Bailed Out of Jail Friday


Lawyers for former Zambian first lady Regina Chiluba said they are hopeful she will be granted bail this Friday. Mrs. Chiluba, the wife of former President Frederick Chiluba was ordered jailed Tuesday for three-and-a-half years for illegally receiving more than $300,000 in stolen government funds and three houses while her husband was president.

Frederick Chiluba, who served as President of Zambia from 1991 to 2002, is himself accused of stealing millions of dollars also from state funds. A court in London found him guilty in 2007 of stealing $46 million dollars of public funds.

In the past six years Zambia has jailed several prominent figures for corruption, including senior officials who served in Chiluba's 10-year administration.

Emmanuel Mwamba, spokesman for former President Frederick Chiluba told VOA Mrs. Chiluba and her husband have maintained all along that there was no proof they stole any state funds.

"We do not agree with the judgment from the sentencing, so Mrs. Chiluba has filed, through her lawyers papers for appeal in the high court, and then she has applied for bail pending this appeal. Her bail application will be heard on Friday, the sixth of March 2009," he said.

Mwamba said the chances are great that Mrs. Chiluba will be granted bail on Friday.

"It's almost automatic in Zambia that when you applied for bail pending appeal, when you've shown evidence that you appealed before the High Court, the lower court usually do give bail. So we are hopeful that the bail application will be heard on Friday and the she will be granted bail on Friday, then we will begin the process of appealing to the High Court," Mwamba said.

He said the charges that the former first lady illegally received more than $300,000 in stolen government funds and three houses are not serious under Zambian law.

"In fact in the Zambian law, the charges are not serious because she's accused of receiving property suspected to be stolen or unlawfully obtained. This doesn't mean that we are not taking this matter seriously. Mrs. Chiluba has one fundamental principle. She has stated that there is no proof that this money was stolen anywhere, and besides, there is no conviction against the former president, Dr. Chiluba. So how can anyone allege that she received stolen property or that she received stolen property or that she obtained property or funds alleged to be stolen?" he said.

Former President Chiluba, who served as President of Zambia from 1991 to 2002, is himself accused of stealing millions of dollars also from state funds.

But Mwamba said under Zambian law, the former president stands innocent until proven guilty in a competent court of law.

"They need to establish first that such money was stolen or unlawfully obtained before they can go to people that are said to have received these gifts from Dr. Chiluba," Mwamba said.

In the past six years Zambia has jailed several prominent figures for corruption, including senior officials who served in Chiluba's 10-year administration.

Mwamba said the conviction of Mrs. Chiluba and former officials are all a political vendetta started by the late Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa.

"Doctor Chiluba has always contended that these matters are political. They were started politically by the late President Dr. Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. Remember the allegations were that he had stolen two billion dollars; they came down that he had stolen $40 million; they came down that now he stole $500,000. So he contends these matters are mere political. Even what we are seeing in court are matters that were begun through a political process to crush a man who was deemed to be a political threat to the government," Mwamba said


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