/ 25 April 2008

Najwa fights state’s bid to lead hearsay evidence

Najwa Petersen’s legal team is fighting a bid by the state to lead evidence on what her husband, Taliep, told a sister about the state of their marriage, and how Najwa stabbed him.

Najwa is in the dock in the Cape High Court along with three men she allegedly hired to murder Taliep on the night of December 16 2006.

Prosecutor Shareen Riley on Friday formally applied to Judge Siraj Desai to be allowed to lead hearsay evidence, not normally admissible in trials, from the sister, Tagmieda Johnson.

The court has already heard that Johnson was the one member of his family that Taliep — who was described as ”very private” when it came to his personal life — confided in.

Riley told the court that the state wanted Johnson’s account of the conversations because it was seeking to show Najwa’s probable motive, which was highly relevant to the case.

The testimony would deal with Taliep’s intention to do ”certain things with regard to the status of his marriage”, and what Taliep told Johnson about events on the night in April 2006 when Najwa stabbed him in the neck.

However, advocate Klaus von Lieres und Wilkau, appearing for Najwa, said hearsay had to be relevant to the ”nature” of the proceedings, which dealt with murder, robbery and a firearms charge.

He had read the testimony Johnson gave at Najwa’s bail hearing, and it would not be in the interests of justice to have her repeat it in court now.

”Mrs Johnson’s evidence does not take this any further,” he said. ”Whatever she has to say is totally irrelevant for purposes of this trial.”

Von Lieres quoted from a previous case in which a judge said an accused usually had enough to contend with ”without having to engage in mortal combat with an absent witness”.

”This hearsay is so remote that it does not contribute to your lordship’s duty to resolve the conflicts of fact in this case,” he said.

Desai said it was a very important issue, and he needed to consider it ”in some detail”.

At the suggestion of Von Lieres, who pointed out that next week was shortened by public holidays, he postponed the trial to May 5, which he said would also give the state a chance to consolidate its case.

Earlier this month, Taliep’s brother, Igsaan, told the court that Taliep had considered divorcing Najwa, but was worried what people would think.

Another witness, Fahiem Hendricks, said Najwa told him they were headed for divorce and she was worried Taliep would get half of her money.

There was evidence at Najwa’s bail hearing that she stabbed Taliep in the neck, inflicting what was apparently only a superficial wound, and that she then went for intensive psychiatric treatment.

Before Riley brought the hearsay application on Friday, a friend and property business partner of Najwa’s, Fatima Achmat, told the court that the day after Taliep’s funeral, Najwa asked her to cash a cheque for her.

Najwa was at that stage in the Muslim mourning period in which a widow is not supposed to leave her house.

Achmat said she asked her brother to do the errand, and the cheque was cashed.

About a week later Najwa phoned her and said that if anyone asked about the money, Achmat should say Najwa had lent it to her. Najwa explained that people wanted to borrow money from her ”all the time”, and she did not want them to know she had the cash.

Von Lieres said the defence did not dispute that a cheque for R100 000 was cashed on December 19 2006 at First National Bank in Athlone. — Sapa