8 Croatians plead not guilty to child trafficking in Zambia

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By Associated Press

LUSAKA: Eight Croatian nationals pleaded not guilty to new child trafficking charges in a Zambian court on Friday.

The eight — four couples — were earlier arrested and charged with trafficking four children from neighboring Congo. They pleaded not guilty and the charges were dropped earlier this week and they were ordered to leave Zambia.

But when they attempted to fly out of the southern African country they were rearrested at the airport and fresh charges were pressed against them.

A senior Zambian immigration officer in the central city of Ndola has been added to the trafficking charges pressed against the Croatians.

Gloria Sakulenga, 36, a Zambian of Kabompo has been charged with child trafficking along with the eight Croatians: Damir Magdic, 44, an electrical technician, Nadica Magdic, 45, a technician, Zoran Subosic, 52, a musician, Azra Imamovic Subosic, 41, an administrator, Ladislav Perisic, 42, a medical doctor, Aleksandra Persic, 43, a hair salon attendant, Noah Kraljevic, 40, a program director and Ivona Kraljevic, 36, a dog handler.

The charge sheet alleges that Sakulenga acted together with the four Croatian couples in December to traffic the four children aged between one and three years.

All denied the charges when the case came up before the court in Ndola.

Kelvin Silwimba, a lawyer from the Legal Aid Board representing them, asked the court to grant the eight Croatians bail pending trial as the four couples were of fixed abode.

Swilimba told the court that the Croatians are innocent until proven guilty and there is no need to keep them in detention at Kansenshi correctional facility.

The female immigration officer is already freed on a police bond.

Magistrate Jennifer Bwalya adjourned the case to Feb. 14, when she said she will rule on whether the accused could be granted bail pending trial.