South African Court Issues Arrest Warrant For Jacob Zuma

In this file photo taken on July 27, 2018, former South African president Jacob Zuma stands in the dock of the High Court of Pietermaritzburg during his hearing over 16 corruption charges.
PHOTO: Phill MAGAKOE / POOL / AFP

 

A South African court on Tuesday issued an arrest warrant for embattled former president Jacob Zuma after he failed to appear for a pre-trial hearing over corruption charges he faces related to a 1990s arms deal.

But the execution of the warrant will be deferred until May 6 when the case is due to resume.

Zuma’s lawyers told the court that he was ill and receiving treatment abroad.

The High Court in the southeastern city of Pietermaritzburg issued the warrant after it questioned the authenticity of the sick note said to have been signed by a military doctor.

“The court accepts that Mr Zuma may be unwell,” said judge Dhaya Pillay. “But this court needs reliable evidence that Mr Zuma is indeed ill.”

“It is not clear that (the doctor) is indeed a regular practitioner,” she said.

Zuma’s lawyer Dan Mantsha told reporters outside the courtroom that “our courts have no sympathy, no compassion”.

“We are very concerned when courts issue warrants under the circumstances like this when the whole country knows that president Zuma is not well … indeed president Zuma underwent two operations in early January this year,” he said, adding the country knew Zuma was outside the country.

“When you start to issue warrants under such circumstances, people start to question whether we are all equal under the law,” said Mantsha.

Zuma was due in court on Tuesday for a pre-trial hearing in a case that has seen numerous legal turns over a decade and a half.

He is alleged to have taken bribes worth four million rand ($270,000) related to a $3.4 billion arms deal in 1999 when he was deputy president.

In all Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering related to the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military equipment when he was deputy to the country’s second black president, Thabo Mbeki.

Both Zuma and French defence company Thales, which supplied equipment for navy vessels, deny the charges.

Zuma was forced to step down in 2018 by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party after a nine-year reign marked by corruption allegations and dwindling popularity.

AFP

S.African Court Grants Bail To Dutch Arms Dealer Linked To Warlord

Cape Town Magistrate’s court. Photo: RODGER BOSCH / AFP

Convicted Dutch arms dealer Guus Kouwenhoven who supplied arms that fuelled Liberia’s bloody civil war was on Tuesday released by a South African court on bail of $78,000, local media reported.

Kouwenhoven, 75, was arrested at his Cape Town mansion in early December after Dutch prosecutors requested his extradition to serve a 19 year sentence for his role in the west African country’s conflict.

He was reportedly granted bail “under strict conditions” that include reporting to a police station every two hours during the week.

“He has also been placed under house arrest (on weekends) and his passport is to be handed in,” the News24 site reported.

Kouwenhoven was found guilty in absentia by a Dutch court in April of delivering weapons to the regime of ousted Liberian strongman Charles Taylor between 2000 and 2003.

In return for the arms, he received preferential treatment and lucrative contracts for his logging business in violation of a UN arms embargo.

His bail hearing in Cape Town last week revealed his lavish lifestyle and multi-million dollar homes and luxury vehicles acquired since he arrived in South Africa, reportedly in December 2016.

Kouwenhoven’s legal team argued that he was seriously ill, with a life expectancy of just three years.

But Magistrate Vusi Mhlanga nonetheless ruled that Kouwenhoven was a flight risk.

“The applicant has already been convicted, he’s not someone presumed to be innocent,” Mhlanga said.

“The court is also mindful of the fact that the borders of this country are poorly guarded.”

After his 1989 rebellion against then-Liberian president Samuel Doe turned into a brutal civil war, Taylor was elected president from 1999 to 2003.

He also backed the Revolutionary United Front rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone while in power, fuelling a civil war that claimed 120,000 lives between 1991 and 2002.

After fleeing to Nigeria in 2003, Taylor was arrested in 2006 and sentenced by an international UN-backed court in The Hague to 50 years in prison in May 2012.

The owner of two of the largest lumber companies in Liberia, Kouwenhoven was close to Taylor.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison in June 2006, but was freed on appeal in March 2008.

In April 2010, the Dutch Supreme Court overturned his acquittal, ruling that the appeal judges had not given sufficient reasons for not hearing the testimony of two new anonymous prosecution witnesses.

He was found guilty in a retrial and in April 2017 sentenced to 19 years behind bars.

AFP

Court Rejects Prosecutor Request To Appeal Pistorius Sentence

Court on Oscar Pistorius A South African court has rejected a prosecutor’s request to appeal Oscar Pistorius’ six-year murder sentence.

The Judge, Thokozile Masipa said their petition had no reasonable prospects of success.

The court had sentenced the Paralympics gold medallist in July for murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in 2013, but the prosecution had said the decision was too lenient.

Pistorius’ defence had earlier argued the state was prejudiced and had dragged the case on for too long.

Pistorius did not attend Friday’s hearing.

His sentencing was sequel to his initial five-year conviction for manslaughter was changed to murder last December on appeal.

The state had called for him to receive no less than the prescribed minimum of 15-year sentence for murder.

Pistorius Released On Bail After Murder Conviction

Oscar PistoriusA South African court has granted bail to paralympian, Oscar Pistorius, after he was convicted of murder for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day in 2013.

The Judge told the court on Tuesday that Pistorius did not pose a flight risk.

“The case is postponed to the 18th of April 2016.

“Applicant is released on bail of 10,000 Rand,” the Judge said.

The Supreme Court last Thursday upgraded the 29-year-old athlete’s sentence to murder from culpable homicide, South Africa’s equivalent of manslaughter, for which he had received a five-year sentence.

Known as “Blade Runner” because of the carbon fibre prosthetic blades he used to race, Pistorius now faces a minimum 15-year jail sentence for murdering his girlfriend, Reuters reported.

The athlete’s lawyer said he would ask for leave to appeal against the murder conviction.

Steenkamp died on February 14, 2013 when Pistorius fired four shots through the toilet door.

He claimed he mistook her for a bugler and prosecutors have argued he did not plan to kill her.

Gunmen Kill 13 Policemen In Bayelsa

13 policemen have been killed after suspected militants ambushed their boat in a creek at Zuzama in southern Ijaw local government area of Bayelsa state.

Three others including a police sergeant escaped death by swimming away to safety.

According to the commissioner of police in the state Kingsley Omire, the boat carrying the police officials was headed to a funeral when it developed engine fault.

It is still unclear if the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is responsible for the attack.

In an e-mail last week, the group had threatened to resume killings in the region following the jailing of its leader Henry Okah by a South African court.

MEND, Keyamo Reject Henry Okah’s Sentence

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has rejected the 24-year prison sentence handed to its leader, Henry Okah, by a South African Court, alleging that the court compromised.

The group in a statement on Tuesday said it rejected what it called the ‘kangaroo court sentence’ slammed on Mr. Okah, just as legal practitioner, Mr. Festus Keyamo, condemned the sentence, describing it as politically motivated.

The statement signed by Jomo Gbomo, expressed the group’s displeasure, saying “MEND is disappointed but not surprised that the South African judiciary has compromised.”

“Boko Haram has killed more innocent Nigerians than any other militant group in the country and yet their spokesperson was handed a three year sentence.”

Describing the sentence as “the height of injustice to our region and people”, MEND threatened to resist it by all means necessary, warning that consultations were on-going with some stakeholders and elders of the region, and adding their position would be made known later.

The group, however, insisted that the judgement would not deter it from continuing its fight against the emancipation of the people of the Niger Delta.

In a press statement, Mr. Keyamo claimed that the sentencing was totally flawed as, Mr Okah was not given adequate facilities for his defence.

“The decision of the South African Court that convicted Henry Okah this morning of charges relating to terrorism is politically motivated and legally incorrect.

“The fundamental flaw in the trial is that Henry Okah was not given adequate facilities and the opportunity to defend himself. This is because after the prosecution closed its case in South Africa, the defence attorneys and my Chambers here in Abuja tried frantically to summon the witnesses of Henry Okah who are based here in Nigeria to testify on his behalf. These witnesses include some government officials.”

Acting as a counsel to Okah’s brother, Charles Okah, and some others facing facing similar charges under the Nigerian laws, Mr. Keyamo said he had been actively involved in coordinating both trials in South Africa and Nigeria.

In his statement, Keyamo claimed he had written to the Attorney-General of the Federation who in his reply directed Okah’s counsel in South Africa to apply for legal assistance of the Nigerian Attorney General Office two weeks ago.

He maintained that the South African Court did not accord Okah’s counsel time and facilities needed to follow these directives as it foreclosed his opportunity to call witnesses and rushed to convict him. He described this move as a breach of Okah’s fundamental right to fair hearing and an obvious attempt by the South African authorities to please Nigeria at all cost.

“Whilst all Nigerians empathise with those who lost their lives and limbs in the October 1, 2010 bombing, it is wrong to convict anybody for it without due process. Henry has been convicted without due process,” Keyamo said.

He added: “I condemn this judgment and call on Nigerians and the international community to condemn the trial and judgment of Henry Okah whose only offence was his refusal to accept the so-called amnesty offered by the Yar’Adua-Jonathan administration and his insistence on the Niger-Delta controlling its resources.”

Mr. Keyamo, therefore, implored the Nigerian government to “immediately use all diplomatic efforts to ensure that Henry Okah does not die in a South African prison and for the South African government to grant him unconditional pardon. This is without prejudice to his right to appeal against the judgment.”

 

 

2010 Independence Day Bombing: Court Finds Okah Guilty

A Johannesburg Magistrate court in South African found Henry Okah guilty of terrorism charges levelled against him by the federal government of Nigeria.

The sentence includes a life jail term. The sentence will be carried out on January 31st or February 1st. The judge however gave Okah room for mitigation.

Mr Okah is accused of masterminding two car bombings in Abuja on October 1 in 2010.

12 people were killed and 36 were injured. He was arrested in Johannesburg the following day.

The Presiding Judge Neels Claassen, said Mr Okah was found guilty on 13 counts ranging from conspiracy to commit terrorism to detonating explosives.

“I have come to the conclusion that the State proved beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the accused,” Judge Neels Claassen said when handing down judgment.

“The evidence of all the accomplices that worked with him was not contradicted… I found that (Okah is the) leader, planner, funder, supplier… of car bombs used in Warri in March 2010 and on October 1, 2010.”

Claassen said Okah’s failure to testify meant evidence against him remained uncontested.

Okah was allegedly the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) that claimed responsibility for the blasts.

He was charged with engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device.

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, who was first to give evidence at the opening of Okah’s trial said Okah was a “key figure in the Niger Delta struggle and the militants had a lot of respect for him”.

Okah denied involvement in the attacks and also denies being the leader of the group.

State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said justice had been done. The ruling showed South African and foreign law enforcement agencies could work together.

“There is no safe haven in South Africa.”

Abrahams said legislation provided for a minimum sentence of life imprisonment for Okah’s crimes.

After the guilty finding, Okah was taken to the court holding cells under heavy police guard.

Meanwhile, Lagos based lawyer, Festus Keyamo has argued that the conviction of Henry Okah is flawed.

Explaining the flaws, Mr Keyamo stated that the convict was not given adequate facility and opportunity to defend himself.

The lawyer claimed he had written a letter to the Attorney-General of the Federation seeking approval for witnesses to the case, including some government officials and it was approved only two weeks ago.

“But unfortunately without giving Henry Okah’s counsel in South Africa adequate time and facilities to follow the directives, the South African court foreclosed this opportunity to call witnesses and rushed to convict him.”

Mr Keyamo also said the terrorism charges are politically motivated and legally incorrect.