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Croatians in Zambian Child Trafficking Case Bailed

FILE: Seven of the eight Croatian nationals charged with attempting to traffic children, outside the magistrates court in Ndola, Zambia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023.

Eight Croatians facing child trafficking charges in Zambia were Tuesday granted bail following their re-arrest last week while trying to leave the southern African nation.

"I am inclined to grant the application as there is nothing in the law that stops foreigners from being granted bail," magistrate Bwalya said on Tuesday in the northern city of Ndola, 300 kilometers north of the capital Lusaka.

The prosecution had opposed the bail application, arguing that the eight were flight risks.

But magistrate Jennipher Bwalya said nothing excluded them from seeking bail if all conditions were met.

The defendants were ordered to pay 20,000 kwacha (about $1,000) each in bail fees and offer two sureties from reputable organizations. The group, comprising four couples, said they legally adopted the children from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo but Zambian authorities have accused them of trafficking the minors.

They were arrested last Tuesday for a second time after being taken into custody in December while attempting to leave Zambia with four children.

They have been jointly charged along with a senior Zambian immigration official.

Trial for the group, first arrested on December 7 last year, is set to commence on March 1.

Nothing has been said in court about the whereabouts or status of the children.

The case has sparked a fierce public debate in Croatia and thrust international adoption into the spotlight in the Balkan nation, where potential adopters vastly outnumber eligible children.