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South Africa’s Zuma loses fresh bid to dodge bribe trial

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Former South African President Jacob Zuma appears in court where he faces charges that include fraud, racketeering and money laundering in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, October 15, 2019. Michele Spatari /Pool via REUTERS

South Africa’s Supreme Court on Friday threw out an appeal by embattled ex-president Jacob Zuma, who sought to halt a corruption trial on charges related to a 1990s arms deal.

Zuma had approached the top appeals court, arguing that a high court was wrong last year to refuse his application for a permanent stay of prosecution against him.

He is alleged to have taken bribes of four million rands ($250,000) related to a $3.4 billion arms deal with France’s Thales in 1999 when he was deputy president.

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Paul Myburgh, the registrar of the Supreme Court of Appeal, told AFP that Zuma’s “applications were dismissed with costs on the 10 of March” and that the court handed down the ruling on Friday.

Zuma will now have to appear in court to face corruption charges on May 6.

He may try to appeal in the country’s constitutional court though it was not immediately clear if he would take that option.

In all, he faces 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering related to the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military equipment.

Last month Zuma, 77, was slapped with an arrest warrant after his lawyers claimed he was receiving medical treatment in Cuba and was too ill to travel back to South Africa for a pre-trial hearing.

The High Court in the southeastern city of Pietermaritzburg issued the warrant after it questioned the authenticity of his sick note, but said it would not be executed until the case resumes in May.

Zuma was forced to step down in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) after a nine-year reign marked by corruption allegations and dwindling popularity.

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