South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal ruled on Friday that President Jacob Zuma can face prosecution on almost 800 charges of corruption relating to a 1990s arms deal.
Zuma had lodged a challenge at the court in Bloemfontein after a lower court decided in 2016 to reinstate charges that were previously dropped by prosecutors. The National Prosecuting Authority must now decide whether to pursue a prosecution.
“The reasons for discontinuing the prosecution given… do not bear scrutiny,” said Supreme Court judge Eric Leach, who read the ruling which Zuma could now contest on appeal to the Constitutional Court, South Africa’s highest.
The president has always maintained his innocence.
In a statement, Mr Zuma’s office said the ruling was “disappointing”, but anticipated.
The president now expected South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to consider representations from his legal team before making a decision about whether to prosecute him, it added.
The charges relate to Mr Zuma’s relationship with a businessman, Shabir Shaik, who was tried and found guilty in 2005 of soliciting bribes from a French arms company “for the benefit of Zuma”.
Mr Zuma and other government officials have been accused of taking kickbacks from the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and other arms.
Charges were first brought against Mr Zuma in 2005 but dropped by prosecutors in 2009.
Last year, the High Court in the capital, Pretoria, ruled in a case brought by the opposition Democratic Alliance that he should face the charges.
Mr Zuma went on to lodge a challenge with the Supreme Court of Appeal.