Zambia: Eight Croatians charged with human trafficking to be released on bail

GODONG / BSIP / BSIP / Profimedia

Eight Croatians arrested over a botched attempt to adopt Congolese children in Zambia will be released on bail by Zambian authorities to await their trial on charges of human trafficking, a court in the Zambian city of Ndola ruled on Thursday.

In the meantime, they will be required to hand over their passports and report to the police regularly, as well as “regulate their stay in Zambia,” the state information platform Hina said on Thursday, citing unnamed “diplomatic sources.” All eight appeared before the judge for the first time on Tuesday. They are charged with attempt of human trafficking and documents forgery. They pleaded not guilty.

The four married couples were arrested at Ndola airport in early December on suspicion of human trafficking, based on suspicious adoption documents issued in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. On Tuesday, their Zambian lawyer, Kelvin Silwimba, filed a request for their release on bail, to which state prosecutor Francis Mulenga objected, calling them a flight risk.

Today, after hearing three female witnesses, the court decided to grant the Croatians bail “once they meet the required conditions.” The next hearing is scheduled for 23 January.

An official of the Croatian embassy in South Africa, which also covers Zambia, has visited the detained Croatians several times. He also tried to visit the children, who have Croatian documents and have been placed in the care of social services, but his request was denied.

Croatia’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Gordan Grlic-Radman, said earlier on Thursday that he had urged his Zambian colleague to provide arrested Croatians with “good conditions” during their detention, adding that they went Zambia with the “noble intention of adopting children.”