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29 Feb 2008 13:56
Murder accused Najwa Petersen made an unexpected appearance in the Cape High Court on Friday in a bid to find out what was happening with her legal representation.
She and three alleged hit men are scheduled to go on trial on Monday for the slaying of her entertainer husband, Taliep, in 2006.
Petersen has so far been represented by two sets of lawyers, one for each of her unsuccessful bids for bail.
However, attorney on the second team John Riley told judge Siraj Desai on Friday that his mandate had been terminated by Petersen’s family, and that he was withdrawing from the case.
He said afterwards that the termination, because of “funding problems”, meant he would no longer be able to retain senior counsel Herbert Raubenheimer, who it was expected would run Petersen’s defence in the trial, on brief.
Petersen told Desai that the first she knew of this was when a new attorney and advocate arrived to consult with her on Thursday afternoon at the prison where she is being held.
She said she had not been allowed to phone members of her family to find out what was going on.
Desai instructed investigating officer Captain Joe Dryden to ensure she had access to a phone.
He also told Petersen that if she did not have a lawyer on Monday, an arrangement would have to be made for her.
“I cannot and will not allow this trial to be delayed under any circumstances,” he said.
He said the state had 50 witnesses on standby that it wanted to call, and any delay would mean great inconvenience.
Noting Petersen was now on her third set of lawyers, he said that this being submitted as a reason for further delay “would not be considered in a favourable light”.
The trial was due to get under way Monday this week, but prosecutors told Desai that legal aid authorities had only just appointed counsel Roelf Konstabel for one of the four accused, Jefferson Snyders, and that Konstabel needed time to prepare.—Sapa
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