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Zambian ex-leader's wife jailed

Frederick Chiluba (left) and his wife Regina in 2003
Frederick Chiluba is also on trial for corruption

The wife of Zambia's former President Frederick Chiluba has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Regina Chiluba was found guilty of receiving stolen state funds to buy three houses and a commercial property while her husband was in office.

She married Mr Chiluba after he stood down in 2001, having served two terms.

The BBC's Musonda Chibamba in Lusaka says Mr Chiluba, who is also on trial for corruption, shook his head as the magistrate read out his verdict.

Weeping

Our correspondent says Mrs Chiluba - usually a glamorous dresser - was wearing a simple traditional "Chitenge" outfit in court in the capital, Lusaka.

These were serious allegations and were casually explained by the accused
Magistrate Charles Kafunda

She continuously mopped her face with a handkerchief during the two-hour judgement.

Every available seat in the court was taken up and many more people stood at the back of the room while others blocked the door, our reporter says.

A shocked silence filled the court when the conviction was read out.

"These were serious allegations and were casually explained by the accused, and I now convict you accordingly and sentence you to three-and-half years simple imprisonment," AFP news agency quotes Magistrate Charles Kafunda as saying.

Some relatives began to silently weep and had to be helped out; others began to sing Christian songs, our correspondent says.

Soon after judgement was passed, a court clerk took Mrs Chiluba's fingerprints while the former president joined her in the dock.

She was then led to a waiting car and driven to the Lusaka Central Prison to begin her sentence.

The court ordered that all the properties in question be forfeited to the state.

Her lawyer has indicated that he will appeal against the sentence in Lusaka's High Court.

Mrs Chiluba was also convicted of receiving a television set that the prosecution proved belonged to the state and for failing to explain how she came to have nearly $100,000 in her personal bank account.

Her husband, whose immunity from prosecution was lifted in 2003, denies stealing millions of dollars of state funds.

Levy Mwanawasa, who launched a high-profile campaign after succeeding Mr Chiluba in 2001, died last year.

President Rupiah Banda has promised to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.

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