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Madonna Adoption Hearing Postponed

A judge on Friday postponed a hearing on a lawsuit by human rights groups challenging the government's decision to allow American pop star Madonna to start adoption procedures for a motherless 13-month-old Malawian boy.

Judge Andrew Nyirenda postponed a hearing on the case until next Friday to give Attorney General Jane Ansah time to consult with the Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services.

"We are ready for the case but the attorney general wants to consult with the Ministry of Gender on the whole adoption process," said Alan Chinula, a lawyer representing Madonna. "Our position is all legal aspects were followed."

Madonna and filmmaker husband Guy Ritchie have been given temporary custody as a step toward adopting David Banda, who has spent most of his young life in an orphanage after his mother died of complications from giving birth. His father has said he was too poor to raise the boy on his own and that he wants the Ritchies to adopt him. The boy was flown to London on Tuesday and taken to Madonna's home there.

The singer said in a statement that she and her husband had followed the law in the adoption process that would be completed after an 18-month evaluation process by Malawian authorities. Normally, prospective parents in Malawi are given custody and required to be monitored here for 18 months to determine their fitness. The regulations make no special provisions for foreigners.

Yohane Banda, the father of the boy, has denounced efforts by human rights groups to challenge the adoption.

"Where were these people when David was struggling in the orphanage? These so-called human rights groups should leave my baby alone," he said in an interview earlier this week. "As father I have okayed this, I have no problem. The village has no problem. Who are they to cause trouble? Please let them stop."

Undule Mwakasungura, a lawyer for the Human Rights Consultative Committee, a grouping of 67 human rights groups, said the committee "is not necessarily against the adoption," it just wants the laws to be followed.

"We note that laws were flouted and our concern is that government may set a precedent that can legalize human trafficking," he said.

He said Madonna and her husband spent just eight days in Malawi but won a court order giving them temporary custody of the baby.

He said the committee wants to be a party to the adoption process to make sure the law is followed. He said current law bars international adoptions, saying adoptive parents must be resident in Malawi and must also be assessed for between 18 and 24 months.

The judge, in granting the interim custody order on Oct. 12, said the issue of residence is not specified in the laws.

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