A magistrate court in Lusaka has ordered former Zambian President Frederick Chiluba to appear before a committee of doctors to determine his fitness to stand trial. Chiluba and two co-defendants are charged with stealing about $500,000 in state funds during the 10 years that Chiluba ruled Zambia. The same committee of doctors recommended last year that Chiluba was unfit to stand trial. But the government says Chiluba has been active in the public domain. The court says the new medical report should be submitted on May 31.
Emmanuel Mwamba is spokesman for former President Chiluba. From Lusaka, he told VOA the former president is willing to appear before the doctors but that his medical treatment should not be disrupted.
?Dr. Chiluba?s position is that he will appear because this is a court directive, and he also is willing to ensure that the matters in court are disposed of. But our emphasis is to ensure that his medical treatment should not be disrupted,? he said.
Mwamba said even though the former president?s health has stabilized, he continues to receive medical treatment. He said it is up to the doctors to determine whether the former president Chiluba is well enough to stand trial.
Mwamba rejected suggestion that the former president might be using the issue of his ill health to avoid trial.
?The matter of Dr. Chiluba?s health is well known by both governments and the public. He has rendered copies of his medical status to all parties involved, and he will stoop so low to fake his own illness. He has maintained his innocence, and he is willing to prove himself, and the only place and forum he can prove himself is the court of law, except that he has been suffering from bad health,? Mwamba said.
The Zambian government has accused Chiluba of being active in the public domain, including giving a news conference to refute a London court ruling against the former president. But Mwamba said having a news conference cannot be compared to Zambian court proceedings.
?His press conference was under an hour. We usually sit in court from two hours to six hours. So it would be narrow to think because he made a press conference therefore he?s well,? Mwamba said.