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JOHANNESBURG — A judge in South Africa issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for former President Jacob Zuma for failing to appear in court in a corruption case that he has sought to avoid for months — now by asserting that he is ill.

The National Prosecuting Authority requested the warrant, the South African Broadcasting Corp. reported. It does not go into effect until the case resumes on May 6.

Reports have said Zuma is in Cuba seeking treatment. Prosecutors requested Zuma’s medical records as evidence of his claim, the state broadcaster reported.

State advocate Billy Downer told the Pietermaritzburg High Court that Zuma’s team has said he will be out of the country for treatment until mid-March, media outlets reported. Zuma’s legal team asserted that he had two operations in early January before going abroad. But the judge questioned a letter from a military hospital in the capital, Pretoria, explaining Zuma’s absence, noting that it had no date.

Zuma’s medical team, including the military and doctors abroad, will determine his fitness to appear before the court in May, said Zuma’s attorney, Daniel Mantsha.

It was not clear when the former president would return from Cuba. According to South Africa’s Justice Ministry, the two countries have negotiated but not signed an extradition agreement.

The 77-year-old Zuma, whose past court appearances were marked by defiant speeches and singing and dancing for crowds of supporters, has faded into the background as his legal challenges to the corruption charges have faltered.

A court late last year dismissed Zuma’s attempt to appeal a ruling that cleared the way for him to be prosecuted. He is accused of receiving bribes from French arms manufacturer Thales through his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who was convicted of fraud and corruption in 2005.

Zuma denies charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering related to the controversial 1999 arms deal when he was deputy president. He has alleged his case was prejudiced by lengthy delays in taking the matter to trial. He also has alleged political interference.

The charges were thrown out by prosecutors nearly a decade ago in a contentious decision that opened the way for Zuma to become president. Prosecutors returned to the case after his rocky presidency.

Zuma, who took office in 2009, resigned in 2018 under pressure from the ruling African National Congress after widespread public outcry over separate allegations of mismanagement and corruption that severely affected state-owned companies.

Print Headline: S. Africa’s Zuma faces arrest order

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