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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 12:21 GMT
Chiluba loses immunity appeal
By Penny Dale
BBC correspondent in Lusaka

Former Zambian president Frederich Chiluba
Chiluba denies all the allegations

In a landmark decision, Zambia's Supreme Court has ruled that parliament acted legally and properly last year in removing the immunity of former president Frederick Chiluba.

This means that Mr Chiluba no longer enjoys protection from the law as guaranteed in the constitution and paves the way for an imminent arrest on charges of corruption.

Mr Chiluba was stripped of his immunity after being accused by his successor, President Levy Mwanawasa, of misusing millions of dollars of government money.

It is the first time such a decision has been made in Zambia and the Commonwealth and it will have massive ramifications for current and future Zambian presidents.

Mr Chiluba denies all the allegations.

'Shell-shocked'

There was chaos on the steps of the Supreme Court.

A shell-shocked Mr Chiluba, on the arm of his new wife Regina, had to push his way through a jostling crowd of journalists, well-wishers and detractors to reach his car.

The normally talkative ex-president was speechless, refusing to make any comment on the court's decision until he had a chance to confer with his lawyers about the ruling.

Scores of people waiting outside the courtroom were not so reticent, some calling for his arrest.

As one after another of Mr Chiluba's five appeals points were rejected by Chief Justice Ernest Sakala, the former president tried to put on a brave face.

He smiled a lot but occasionally bowed his head while his wife gave him a reassuring squeeze on the arm.

The chief justice made it clear in the ruling, which lasted almost two hours, that parliament properly exercised its power, and its decision was not outrageous.

Arrest 'imminent'

Mr Chiluba's arrest on corruption charges is now expected at any time.

The special task force set up to investigate the allegations during Mr Chiluba's 10 years in office has said it has already summoned the ex-president for questioning later on Wednesday.

Mr Chiluba's lawyers told me that he will co-operate and appear if that is what the task force wants.

The question many Zambians are asking is whether Chiluba will fall victim to one of his own retrogressive laws: the non-balliable offence of motor vehicle theft.





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WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC's Penny Dale on Focus on Africa
"Chiluba's arrest on corruption charges is expected anytime now"



SEE ALSO:
Zambia's ex-leader in court
21 Nov 02 |  Africa
Chiluba resigns as party leader
22 Mar 02 |  Africa
Chiluba's legacy to Zambia
19 Dec 01 |  Africa


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