Several Egyptians held over mystery ‘gold’ plane freed in Zambia
Several Egyptians arrested in Zambia in connection with a mystery plane carrying gold, cash and weapons were released on Friday after prosecutors dropped charges against them.
A total of five Egyptians were held on espionage charges after their chartered aircraft landed in Lusaka last month. Six Zambians were also arrested on the same charges.
Authorities in the southern African country said 127 kilos (280 pounds) of “suspected gold”, a handful of firearms, 126 rounds of ammunition and almost $5.7 million were found onboard.
All have been seized by Zambian authorities.
On Friday, the espionage case against all the Egyptians and one Zambian was dropped with little explanation.
“You are all hereby discharged,” magistrate Davies Chimbwili told the men at a court hearing in Lusaka.
But drug and law enforcement authorities said two of the Egyptians were subsequently re-arrested on unspecified “lesser charges” and granted bail.
Much of the story remains unclear.
The 11 suspects faced up to 30 years in jail for having allegedly entered a restricted zone at the Kenneth Kaunda International airport in the capital.
Five of them, all Zambian nationals, remain in custody awaiting trial for espionage.
“This is not a time to mention anything,” Micheal Adel Micheal Batros, one of the Egyptian suspects, told reporters after the court hearing, before leaving aboard a bus.
“We knew from day one that we are clean.”
Court papers seen by AFP listed a former Egyptian military person and businessman as well as a Zambian police officer among those initially held.
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