Malawi's highest court reversed an earlier decision and opened to the public on Monday the first day of a hearing on pop star Madonna's bid to adopt a toddler from the African country.
Though the Supreme Court of Appeal session was initially to be closed, a three-judge panel decided to open the proceedings to the public. Madonna was not in attendance.
Last month, a lower court judge ruled against the U.S. entertainer's attempt to adopt a three-year-old girl, Chifundo (Mercy) James. One of the reasons cited was that Madonna had not fulfilled the lengthy residency requirement that is part of Malawian law.
On Monday, the trio of judges heard from lawyers for the pop star as well as representatives from two children's rights groups who oppose the adoption.
Foreign adoptions should be the last resort, "when all other options, like foster parenting in country of residence, have failed," said attorney Johns Gulumba, representing the group Eye of the Child.
At the close of Monday's hearing, the judges did not immediately set a date for the next session, at which a decision is expected.
The adoption continues to spark headlines, especially after a man claimed over the weekend that he is the toddler's father and says he wishes to stop the adoption.
The girl has lived in an orphanage for much of her life, after the death of her mother several weeks after childbirth.
According to her mother's brother, the little girl was placed with the orphanage because there had been no one to breastfeed her as an infant. He also said that the family does not know the man who claims to be the father.