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Zambian ex-leader's graft case delayed again


The start of a highly-charged trial of Zambia's ex-president Rupiah Banda on corruption charges was again delayed Friday, after his lawyers questioned the jurisdiction of the court.

Banda's lawyers argued that a magistrate court could not hear a case that involved offences allegedly committed when Banda was head of state, because they concern constitutional matters.

Magistrate Joshua Banda postponed the case to April 17 when he will make a ruling on whether he can hear the matter, which many believe is politically motivated, or shift it to the High Court.

Banda is accused of corruption in relation to a Nigerian crude oil contract, a deal which is alleged to "benefit himself and his family".

The case had been initially slated to open on Wednesday, but was moved to Friday.

Parliament last month stripped ex-president Banda of his presidential immunity leaving him open to prosecution.

Banda is fighting, in a separate court battle, the lifting of his immunity.

"The serious matter of this nature needs to be determined by the High Court," one of Banda's lawyers, Patrick Mvunga, told the magistrate.

"This is a fundamental issue in the history of this country and it cannot be glossed over," he said.

Banda, who ruled Zambia from 2008 to 2011, was in the dock and smiled and nodded his head for most of the court session as his lawyers argued the matter.

His lawyers also asked the court to ban the privately owned Post Newspaper from covering the trial over what they alleged was biased coverage.

In an editorial on Thursday headlined "What is Rupiah Afraid of?" the paper claimed that Banda was guilty of corruption.

"From the tone of this editorial it is quite clear that the authors are malicious," said another of Banda's lawyers, Sakwiba Sikota.

But the magistrate simply warned both local and international media to be fair and accurate in their reporting on the case.