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Zambian President Offors Pardon to Former President Chiluba - 2002-07-22

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa says he is ready to pardon former president Frederick Chiluba, if Mr. Chiluba returns any assets he’s taken from the country.

The former president has been accused of corruption, and parliament recently voted to lift his immunity from prosecution. But Zambia’s high court has put parliament’s decision on hold until it rules on whether it is legal. That ruling is expected on July 29th.

Richard Sakala, the former special assistant to Mr. Chiluba, says the former president will not comment on the pardon offer “because of the legal implications…because the matters are likely to be in court at some point.” Mr. Sakala says the issue of immunity is currently before the High Court.

He says Mr. Chiluba won’t comment because “commenting on cases that are before the courts is an offense itself. One can be cited for contempt.” He says he does not know why President Mwanawasa is talking about the case. He says, “President Mwanawasa is a lawyer, so maybe he knows better than some of us laymen. But commenting on it would be breaking the law.” He adds that the law says a former president “cannot be taken to court for any civil or criminal matters.” He says the issue of “particular substantive matters or alleged crimes has not arisen as of yet.” Mr. Sakala spoke with English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua.