Eight Croatians detained in Zambia for nearly six months on child trafficking charges were acquitted on Thursday and will return home as soon as possible, the Croatian government said Thursday.
The court in Ndola acquitted eight Croatian nationals ... because it has not been proven that they committed the criminal act of child trafficking," a government statement said.
Debates on the morality of adoptions
The group, made up of four couples, was arrested in early December while trying to leave Zambia with four children from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The case has sparked concern among Croatian authorities in this Balkan Catholic country of less than four million people, where debates about the morality of adoptions in poor countries rage. In Croatia, applications for adoption are much higher than the number of eligible persons.
In this case, no evidence that the adoption documents were falsified was brought and the eight Croats will be transferred to Croatia as soon as possible, a government minister said. After an initial release on bail, the group was arrested a second time while trying to leave Zambia. The four children were taken from them in December and handed over to Zambian social services, according to Zagreb. Neither Croatian diplomats nor adoptive parents were able to visit the children.
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In Croatia, the debate on child husbandry affects parents who have already adopted in the DRC. Accusations of "buying" minors and "pedophilia" have flared in the media and on social networks. Adoptive families feel ostracized. "She asked me what she should say at school if they asked her if I bought it," Djurdjica Krmelic, who lives in a village near Zagreb, told RTL television about a recent conversation with her daughter from DRC.
The DRC is one of the preferred destinations for potential Croatian parents. Over the past decade, between 94 and 131 Congolese children have been adopted by Croatian families, according to Zagreb.