South African ex-president Jacob Zuma will on Monday ask the nation’s top court to let him out of jail by rescinding its 15-month sentence for snubbing anti-graft investigators.
The Constitutional Court on June 29 slapped Zuma with the prison stretch for refusing to appear before a probe into the corruption that mired his nine years in power.
Zuma is seeking to have that ruling set aside on the grounds that it was made in his absence.
Should the bid fail, Zuma’s team will seek to convince the judges that jail time is not the appropriate punishment for this instance of contempt, due to reasons including the implications for Zuma’s health, according to an information handout for media from the court on Saturday.
Zuma, 79, is also asking to be released from the Estcourt prison in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province on the grounds of his age and ailing health, adding that the ongoing pandemic means he is not a flight risk.
The man once dubbed the “Teflon president”, spent his first night in jail on Thursday after handing himself in to authorities following hours of drama and suspense.
His lawyers had also petitioned the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KwaZulu-Natal to stave off imprisonment. But on Friday it rejected the case, saying it lacked jurisdiction over the matter and Zuma’s claims about his health were “not supported by any evidence.”
The former president testified to the commission once in July 2019, but then swiftly withdrew his cooperation, saying he was offended by being treated as an “accused” and not as a witness.
He returned in November 2020, without uttering a word, and missed several subsequent appointments by evading his summonses on various grounds, including medical reasons, lack of funds and his request to have the chairman of the commission, then-deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, recuse himself.
If Zuma is to serve the full term, he could still see himself back home long before year-end as he would be eligible for parole in less than four months.
Meanwhile, sporadic violence has erupted in the country, with dozens arrested after looting in KwaZulu-Natal and in the economic capital Johannesburg.
A Chief Magistrate Court in Abuja has fixed March 2 for the trial of Omoyele Sowore and four others standing trial for alleged criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly and inciting public disturbance.
Chief Magistrate Mabel Segun-Bello fixed the date on Friday following an application for adjournment by the prosecutor, Edosa Samuel.
The prosecutor predicated his application on the ground that he has just taken over the case on the advice of the director of public prosecution and needed time to study the case file in order for him to put his house in order.
Lawyer to the defendants, Marshal Abubakar however objected to the prosecutor’s application for adjournment, urging the court to strike out the suit or in the alternative, order accelerated hearing.
After listening to arguments for and against the adjournment, Chief Magistrate Segun-Bello ordered the prosecutor to serve the defendants with the proof of evidence within seven days as she fixed March 2 for the commencement of trial.
The primary suspect in a trial over the 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre has tested positive for coronavirus and the court has been suspended until Wednesday, lawyers said.
Ali Riza Polat is accused of having helped the killers of 12 people in the 2015 attack on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, a female police officer a day later and four hostages at a Jewish supermarket.
He is facing the most serious charge of the suspected accomplices on trial — complicity in terrorist crimes — and could face life in jail if convicted.
The 35-year-old vomited and was seen by a doctor, prompting the judge to suspend the court until next week.
The 10 accused accomplices must now be tested and “the resumption of the trial will depend on the results of these tests and the development of the health of the people concerned”, presiding judge Regis de Jorna said in an email to lawyers Saturday.
He urged everyone in court to observe social distancing, and insisted all participants must wear a mask.
The suspension of the hearing will delay the conclusion of the trial, which opened on September 2.
Defence lawyers were scheduled to plead on November 6, 9, 10 and 11 with the verdict expected on 13.
Fourteen people are on trial in the special terrorism court over their support for the jihadist trio who attacked in January 2015. All of the attackers were shot dead by police.
Described as the “right arm” of attacker Amedy Coulibaly, Polat was born in Istanbul but moved to France when he was three and like Coulibaly grew up in the city of Grande Borne in Grigny, in the suburbs of Paris.
France returned to lockdown on Friday after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, in the latest measure to curb a disease that has infected more than 44.5 million people worldwide and killed nearly 1.2 million.
Fourteen people accused of helping jihadist gunmen storm the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket went on trial Wednesday, five years after three days of terror sent shock waves through France.
The events that began on January 7, 2015 sparked a series of attacks on French soil, including “lone wolf” killings by people said to be inspired by the Islamic State group that have since claimed more than 250 lives.
Hearings began under heavy security as eleven of the suspects appeared in the courtroom, facing charges of conspiracy in a terrorist act or association with a terror group.
Three others, including the wife of one of the gunmen, fled to IS-held territory in Syria days before the attacks and are being tried in absentia.
Charlie Hebdo, whose taboo-shattering style makes it a beacon of free speech for many, marked the trial’s opening by republishing cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that had angered Muslims around the world.
“That’s the essence of the Charlie Hebdo spirit: It’s refusing to give up our freedoms, our laughter, and even our blasphemy,” the paper’s lawyer, Richard Malka, said before entering the courtroom.
“Don’t be afraid, neither of terrorism, nor of freedom.”
Some 150 experts and witnesses will be heard over the next two and a half months in the trial that will revisit one of the most painful chapters in France’s modern history.
The three assailants were killed by police, but any suggestion that those on trial were only minor players has been rubbished by prosecutors and relatives of the victims.
“These people aren’t lackeys,” said Patrick Klugman, a lawyer for one of the victims, insisting the suspects shared a deep-seated anti-Semitism.
– ‘Just so unfair’ –
Twelve people, including some of France’s most celebrated cartoonists, were gunned down on January 7, 2015, when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed the paper’s offices in eastern Paris.
A day later, Amedy Coulibaly, who became close to Cherif Kouachi while they were in prison, killed a 27-year-old police officer, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, during a traffic check in Montrouge, outside Paris.
“I just want to know why my daughter was killed. It’s just so unfair,” Clarissa’s mother Marie-Louisa Jean-Philippe, who will testify at the trial, told French daily Liberation on Wednesday.
Coulibaly went on to kill four men, all Jews, during a hostage-taking at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris on January 9. He recorded a video saying the three attacks were coordinated and carried out in the name of the Islamic State jihadist group.
Coulibaly was killed when police stormed the supermarket. The Kouachi brothers were killed when officers carried out a nearly simultaneous operation at the printing shop where they were holed up northeast of Paris.
– Weapons and ideology –
The trial was originally set for last spring but was delayed by the coronavirus crisis that shut down most French courthouses.
Of the 14 suspects, three escaped arrest: Hayat Boumedienne, Coulibaly’s girlfriend, and two brothers, Mohamed and Mehdi Belhoucine, all of whom fled for IS-controlled areas in Syria just days before the attacks.
The Belhoucine brothers were reportedly killed while fighting alongside IS, while French officials suspect Boumedienne is on the run in Syria. Arrest warrants remain outstanding for all three.
Mohamed Belhoucine and Ali Riza Polat, a French citizen of Turkish origin, face the most serious charges of complicity in a terrorist act, which carry a maximum sentence of life in jail.
The former is thought to have become the ideological mentor of Coulibaly after meeting him in jail, opening up channels of communication for him to IS.
Polat, seen as close to Coulibaly, is suspected of playing a central role in preparing the attacks, notably by helping to build up the arsenal of weapons used.
Given its historical importance, the trial at the Paris courthouse will be filmed for France’s official archives, a first for a terror trial. It is scheduled to run until November 10.
A suspected international fraudster, Raymond Abbas, aka Ray Hushpuppi, has been arraigned in an American court in California and his trial is set to begin on October 13, 2020.
During his arraignment on Tuesday, he pleaded not guilty to the four-count of conspiracy to fraud, money laundering conspiracies, international money laundering, and engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.
In June, the 37-year-old who is known for displaying his opulent lifestyle on social media was arrested in Dubai by special operatives of the Emeriti Police and American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
‘Hushpuppi’ alongside Olalekan Ponle, popularly known as Woodberry, was extradited to Chicago in the United States where he was first arraigned in July.
The U.S. Court in Illinois did not have jurisdiction over the case, he was later transferred to Los Angeles, a city in California.
Hushpuppi Denied Bail
On July 14, Hushpuppi was denied bail by a court in the US Northern District of Illinois.
The court ruled that the self-acclaimed billionaire Gucci master, who has over 2.5m followers on Instagram, will remain in detention until his trial this year over money laundering allegations.
He will be transported to Los Angeles by the United States Marshall Service and will not be allowed to stay with his girlfriend’s uncle in Homewood, Illinois.
The trial is slated to be held in Los Angeles where the case was filed rather from Chicago where the investigation is being handled.
At the hearing, Hushpuppi’s lawyer denied that his client was a flight risk or a danger to the community as he repeatedly rejected the allegations made against him by the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).
He is accused of being part of a network that made hundreds of millions of dollars from business email-compromise fraud and other scams.
A British judge on Monday delayed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s full extradition hearing, which had been due to begin next month, after the coronavirus pandemic prevented him meeting his lawyers.
At a preliminary hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, Vanessa Baraitser agreed to vacate the May 18 start date for the three-week extradition trial, and warned the next time slot was not available until November.
A new timetable for the case will be agreed at another administrative hearing on May 4.
Assange is currently in the high security Belmarsh prison in south London as he fights an extradition request by the United States to stand trial there on espionage charges.
His lawyers said Monday they had been unable to take instruction from the whistleblower since the coronavirus outbreak prompted a nationwide lockdown in Britain more than a month ago.
“There have always been great difficulties in getting access to Mr Assange,” lawyer Edward Fitzgerald told the court.
He said that while detailed counting was ongoing, Abiodun Agbele, (named in the body of the charge) came in with one Taofeek, and gave instructions that the money is to be credited to a company called Still Earth Ltd, with Taofeek as depositor, following instructions by Fayose.
The witness said that after counting the money, it was then deposited in the account of Still Earth, adding that since Taofeek could not write he was assisted to fill same in the bank.
Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, Mr Ola Olanipekun (SAN) the witness told the court that he had never been to the residence of the first defendant before the period the money was conveyed.
When asked if it was the instructions received from Oshode he had passed on, he answered that he only confided in another staff of the bank called Aladegbola Adewale.
According to him, he confided in the said Aladegbola because he (Aladegbola) knew the destination where the money was to be picked up but never knew the amount.
When asked where the said Aladegbola is presently, he told the court that he had resigned from the bank.