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Daily Archives: August 4, 2008

SAfrica’s Zuma heads back to court on graft charges

by Fran Blandy*

South African ruling party chief Jacob Zuma heads to court today for the start of a long-awaited trial which will kick off with more delays as his lawyers seek to have it thrown out of court.
It is the second time the state has attempted to prosecute Zuma for corruption after a judge struck prosecutors' last bid off the roll in 2006, declaring their case against the populist leader was a disaster.
Zuma's lawyers will seek to declare the case unlawful, and if this is not successful will bring an application for a permanent stay of prosecution, arguing that repeated delays render a fair trial impossible.
"There is the main application to review the NPA's (National Prosecuting Authority) decision (to prosecute)," Zuma's lawyer Michael Hulley said.
The application is expected to take two days, before the trial is provisionally adjourned to a date in September.
This and other ongoing legal challenges relating to the investigation could delay the trial until after general elections in 2009, when Zuma is tipped to become president as the candidate for the majority African National Congress.
Given that he faces a total of 16 charges ranging from money-laundering to racketeering, legal experts believe a trial could drag on for months.
Zuma has previously said he would stand down if convicted but will not do so while the accusations are unproven.
His supporters in the mass trade union and youth movements warned last week they would bring the town of Pietermaritzburg in eastern Kwazulu-Natal province — where the trial is to be heard — to a standstill.
Zuma's various court appearances have been characterised by widespread support with thousands holding night vigils and chanting pro-Zuma songs outside court.
The 66-year-old was dramatically cleared of rape in May 2006 after a trial in which he admitted sleeping with an HIV-positive family friend less than half his age, showering after sex in order to prevent infection.
His key allies maintain the case is a political conspiracy to prevent him from taking the country's highest office and said "only death" would stop them from making him South Africa's third black president.
Zuma, who toppled President Thabo Mbeki as ANC leader at a conference in December, was recharged only days after he was elected.
He was sacked by Mbeki as deputy head of state in 2005 after his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was handed a 15-year prison sentence for paying him bribes.
Prosecutors have been investigating Zuma since 2001 for corruption, the main charge of which is that he allegedly received bribes for protecting French arms company Thint in an investigation into a controversial arms deal.
The NPA has repeatedly come under fire for its handling of the seven-year investigation.
Zuma's legal team had been about to launch a stay of prosecution in 2006, when the original corruption case against him was struck off the roll.
The country's constitutional court on Thursday refused a last-ditch legal bid from Zuma to prevent documents seized in police raids being used in his trial.
About 93,000 documents seized in the raids on the properties of Thint, Zuma and Hulley, on August 18, 2005, are seen as central to the state's case against Zuma.
Prosecutors are also still engaged in a legal battle to secure evidence from a Mauritian court.


Twelve killed in Baghdad bomb blasts

A series of bomb attacks in Baghdad early yesterday killed 12 people and wounded at least 31, government sources said.
In the deadliest attack a small truck parked near the passport office on Magreb Street in the north of the city killed 12 and wounded 20, defence and interior ministry sources said.
Several people suffered burns as flames from the powerful blast swept skywards, damaging buildings, they said.
Meanwhile, on Palestine Street in the centre of the Iraqi capital a roadside bomb wounded nine including six civilians as a police patrol passed.
A third attack thought to have targeted government vehicles wounded two civilians in the southeastern neighbourhood of Al-Ghadir.
The rush hour strikes were the first attacks in the city since last Monday when three suicide bombers believed to be women blew themselves up among the pilgrims in the capital, killing at least 25 and wounding around 75.
Yesterday's bombings came as the Iraqi parliament was due to tackle a disputed provincial election bill that has heightened tensions over the oil-rich northern region of Kirkuk, casting doubt over polls originally set for October.
Thousands of Arabs staged a noisy rally in Iraq's northern city of Hawija on Saturday to protest against fresh moves to incorporate the oil province of Kirkuk into the autonomous Kurdish region.
Kirkuk has been gripped by ethnic tension since the US-led invasion of 2003, with Arab and Turkmen residents fearful they would be marginalised if the city were handed over to the Kurds.
A suicide bombing and ensuing panic gunfire killed at least 27 people and wounded 126 last Monday during a mainly Kurdish rally protesting against the provincial election law that promises to tackle these concerns.