Police dog handlers in court

STEVEN SWINDELLS, Pretoria | Tuesday

A PRETORIA high court on Monday postponed until November the trial of six white policemen alleged to have set dogs on black job-seekers, an incident that shocked South Africa and deepened racial mistrust between blacks and whites.

The trial was delayed until November 19 after defence lawyers requested that two weeks were needed to hear the case and that it could not be completed, as originally scheduled, in just one week, a court source said.

The six policeman, dressed in suits and ties and accompanied by their families, left the court on bail after the five-minute hearing without commenting to reporters.

Unlike previous court appearances, there were no protests inside or outside the court and the six policemen did not require protection from authorities.

At a hearing in November, furious protesters carried posters calling for “One Settler, One Bullet”.

The six accused are Jacobus Petrus Smith (31) Lodewyk Christiaan Koch (32) Nicolaas Kenneth Loubser (27) Dino Guiotto (27) Robert Benjamin Henzen (32) and Eugene Werner Truter (28).

They are all charged with abduction, extortion and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Three of the men have resigned from the police force since their arrest last year.

The accused policemen made an amateur video in 1998 that triggered widespread outrage and an intense national debate on racism after it was shown by the state South African Broadcasting Corporation last year.

It shows five laughing white policemen repeatedly setting dogs on to three black men who screamed and pleaded for mercy as the animals savaged their legs, arms and, in one case, genitals.

The victims are shown being beaten as they try to ward off the dogs or protect themselves.

One policeman in the video addressed the camera, saying: “This is a training exercise.”

The three victims, illegal immigrants from neighbouring Mozambique, have been traced and put into witness protection programmes, state lawyers said.

The video footage served to harden racial attitudes in South Africa six years after the largely trouble-free transition from apartheid to democracy.

The court case comes as South Africa, still polarised on racial lines seven years after the end of apartheid, prepares to host a United Nations world conference on racism on August 31. - Reuters

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