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Zambia Charges Five Egyptians With ‘Espionage’ in Seized Plane Incident

According to the DEC, the Zambian defendants in the case included a senior police officer.

All defendants appeared at the magistrate court in Lusaka on Monday afternoon but judges adjourned hearing the case to Tuesday.

The DEC did not respond to inquiries on developments in the case from Ahram Online.

According to a statement issued by the DEC at the time of the incident, Zambian authorities seized a private plane that had transited through Cairo at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in the capital of Lusaka.

The DEC said the seized plane was carrying $5.6 million, 602 suspected gold bars weighing 127.2 kg, and several loaded pistols.

According to Zambian news websites, a Zambian court ruled not to release the crew members of the seized jet, who included an Egyptian air hostess.

The pilot of the private jet, who is of Egyptian origin with a known residence in Cairo, entered Zambia on a Saint Kits and Navis passport, according to information released by the court.

Authorities in Zambia have arrested several more Zambian citizens in the case over the past few days, the BBC reported.

Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema vowed in statements to the media to arrest and prosecute everyone involved.

According to AFP, the suspects could face up to 30 years in jail under Zambian law.

Egypt-Zambia coordination

On Monday, the state news agency MENA cited a well-informed Egyptian source as saying that the Egyptian and Zambian authorities have been coordinating vis-a-vis the ongoing investigation.

The Egyptian authorities have also been closely following up on the interrogation measures as well as any legal actions to ensure that they conform with international law, added the source.

Differing accounts

Several days after the initial seizure, French law firm Antoine Vey & Associates issued a statement demanding the immediate release of the detainees.

The statement also accused Zambian authorities of violating the country’s constitution and disregarding due process by detaining the private aircraft, its crew, and passengers.

The firm presented a completely different version of events than the one offered by Zambian authorities.

It claimed that the private jet was actually in transit at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport for refuelling and to take on another passenger before heading to its final destination in South Africa when a group of armed robbers attempted to board the plane.

The statement added that the crew issued an SOS message to the airport and local police authorities, yet the Zambian authorities detained its passengers and confiscated cash and sophisticated mineral testing equipment that was on board and destined for the business activities of the plane’s lessee.

It is unclear whether the French law firm represents all detainees or certain detainees in the case.

The firm did not respond to inquiries from Ahram Online.

Source : Ahram