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Malawi court to rule on Madonna adoption bid Friday

By Mabvuto Banda

LILONGWE (Reuters) - Malawi's highest court said it would announce on Friday whether U.S. pop star Madonna could adopt a second child from the country, a spokesman said, in a case that has drawn fire from local rights groups.

Malawi's High Court ruled in April she could not adopt 4-year-old Mercy James, because the singer was not a resident of Malawi. Madonna appealed.

Supreme Court spokesman Joseph Chigona told Reuters on Thursday that the announcement would be made at 0700 GMT (3:00 a.m. EST) on Friday.

Malawi's government came under fire after Madonna adopted a 13-month-old child, David Banda, in 2006, with critics accusing it of giving her special treatment by skirting laws that ban non-residents from adopting children.

Rights groups accused the government of giving Madonna, a U.S. citizen, special treatment. The government had supported Madonna's attempt to adopt Mercy, saying she was a worthy mother.

An AIDS epidemic in the southern African country has orphaned more than one million children and Madonna has set up a charity for Malawian children.

In her ruling in April, High Court judge Esimie Chombo warned against celebrity adoptions, saying they could lead to child trafficking.

Madonna has entertained millions around the world with hits like "Material Girl" and "Papa Don't Preach," creating a fair amount of controversy along the way.

The star, who was divorced last year from British film director Guy Ritchie, is one of the music industry's most successful singers, with album sales of more than 200 million.

(Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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