South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma failed to appear in court to respond to corruption charges over a $2.5bn arms deal for his trial which has dragged out for years.
The trial resumed on Tuesday after a 10-day delay to allow state-appointed doctors to assess evidence of his condition alongside his own medical team.
Last month, Zuma, 79, was released on medical parole to undergo unspecified surgery.
Prosecutors have argued ill health did not justify his absence.
“Attendance in court is not optional,” state advocate Wim Trengove said as the trial kicked off at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in the southeastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
He contested an instruction from Zuma to “carry on with his case without him” and noted a “difference of opinion” between doctors, with state medics finding Zuma “fit to stand trial”.
The former president is jointly accused with French arms firm Thales and is facing 18 charges, including corruption, money laundering, and tax evasion racketeering linked to the arms deal in the late 1990s.
Zuma has denied the charges and regards the criminal trial against him as politically motivated.