madonna-in-malawiMadonna’s application to adopt Chifundo “Mercy” James, 3, was turned down by a Malawi judge Friday morning in court. The judge cited requirements that adoptive parents reside in the African country for 18 to 24 months.

“I must have to decline to grant the application to Madonna,” judge Esmie Chondo, who was widely expected to sign off on the adoption, said in a closed-door ruling.

The icon arrived in Malawi last week to visit her orphanage, see Mercy, and take David to see his biological father to keep him in touch with his Malawi roots.

The star’s 2006 adoption of Banda was granted despite her not meeting the residency requirements, which caused outrage among some non-governmental groups that believes she was using her celebrity status to bend the law.

In his ruling, the judge expressed concern that by allowing Madonna or others to bypass their requirements, the courts could actually facilitate the trafficking of children by some unscrupulous individuals instead of safeguarding them.

Chombo also argued that Madonna’s good works with Malawi’s orphanages – she is now supporting more than 25,000 orphans in the country – will still benefit Mercy since she currently resides in a facility sponsored by the singer.

Madonna will be allowed to file an appeal against the order. Fortunately, she still has one adopted child in David Banda, and another in Jesus Luz.