Former president Frederick Chiluba may stand trial for corruption by video link due to ill health, a spokesman for the ex-leader said on Friday.
Chiluba, who is due to travel to South Africa for medical treatment, has been told by a Zambian court to return home by August 13 to resume his protracted trial the next day, spokesman Emmanuel Mwamba said.
Mwamba said Chiluba was due to inform the court whether he would stand trial by video link after Zambian doctors advised that he was too ill to be present in person.
“Dr Chiluba will inform his lawyers what they should tell the court after the court gave him an option to stand trial by video link or to be present in court whatever the circumstances,” Mwamba told Reuters.
Chiluba’s graft trial involving allegations of theft of $488,000 in Treasury funds during his decade-long rule which ended in 2001 has created major controversy between state prosecutors and his lawyers.
Prosecutors want the former president to stand trial despite having a cardiac problem, while Chiluba and his lawyers had earlier argued that he cannot be forced to appear via video link as it would impinge on his right to be physically present in court.
Last week, doctors advised him to seek immediate medical treatment in South Africa after he became weaker, but the court only allowed him to travel on Friday following earlier objections from state prosecutors.
Chiluba is simultaneously fighting a London court judgement which ordered him to pay back $58 million it said he stole from the national Treasury in a civil case Zambian authorities lodged in Britain.
Chiluba has argued that the British case was essentially fraudulent and promoted by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa in an attempt to make a point about graft in Africa.