A court in Zambia has decided that eight Croatian nationals, arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and falsifying adoption papers in order to adopt children from the Republic of Congo, can be released after posting bail of one thousand dollars and handing over their passports.
The next hearing in the process for alleged human trafficking against the eight Croatian citizens, whose intentions Croatian Foreign Affairs Minister Gordan Grlić Radman assessed as noble, will be held in Zambia on January 23rd. The court had previously allowed them to be released from prison if they posted bail and travel documents. In addition, they will have to report to the police regularly. The eight Croatians, who have been detained for a month in Zambia’s third largest city, Ndola, appeared before a judge for the first time two days ago. They are accused of attempted human trafficking and the falsification of documents.
The four married couples were arrested at the beginning of December at the airport in Ndola on suspicion of human trafficking, specifically that their documents for the adoption of children from the Congo were falsified. Their lawyer Kelvin Silwimba filed a request two days ago to release the accused on bail, however, state prosecutor Francis Mulenga objected to this, arguing that there was clear flight risk. On Thursday, after the court heard from three witnesses, the court decided to release the eight suspects once they meet the required conditions.
An official of the Croatian embassy in South Africa, which also covers Zambia, visited the detained Croatians several times. He also tried to visit the children, who now have Croatian documents and have been transferred to local social welfare services, but his visit was prevented.
Currently there are eight couples in Croatia that are in the process of adopting children from Congo. Since 2012, 131 children from the Congo have been adopted in Croatia. Authorities say the adoption decisions will not be re-evaluated. The head of the Department for Child and Family Protection at the Family and Social Policy Ministry, Melita Čusek: "In question are children who are Croatian citizens, who have integrated into Croatian society, who are attending school in Croatia, know our language, know these people as their parents, and I truly don't see any sense in re-examining those decisions."
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