/ 20 February 2009

Selebi wins documents battle

The Johannesburg High Court has ordered the Scorpions to hand over almost all outstanding documents police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi says he needs to prepare for his trial.

“Clearly, if the defendant’s team is not furnished with the statements and/or the right to consult with witnesses … there is a real likelihood, a real possibility that the accused will not enjoy a fair trial,” said Judge Nico Coetzee on Friday.

Selebi’s attorney Wynanda Coetzee phoned Selebi from inside the courtroom and said afterwards, “He’s very glad.”

“Now we can go ahead and prepare. We have almost everything,” Coetzee said.

Selebi’s team had submitted 57 “prayers”, court jargon for what they wanted the court to order and, said Coetzee, apart from three modifications, they had reached agreement on everything.

Selebi had complained that he was battling to get the National Prosecuting Authority’s investigative unit, the Scorpions, to hand over the information he needed to analyse it or to test witnesses’ credibility ahead of his April 14 trial.

The Scorpions’ head Gerrie Nel in turn argued that they either had already, or planned to hand over whatever they felt he was entitled to or that they intended using.

His request for “everything” was a wide-ranging fishing expedition, said Nel.

Selebi, who will have to disprove corruption and defeating the ends of justice allegations, began raising such concerns about access to the information when he made a first appearance, by agreement with the Scorpions, in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court last year.

He eventually decided to approach the court, saying that in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act and the Constitution he was entitled to be given what he needed to prepare for his trial so that it could be fair.

Some of the particulars he can now get include:

  • Copies of the affidavits and documents that supported the issuing of warrants of search and arrest against him as well as the affidavit that supported the later withdrawal of the search warrant;
  • Documents and case files related to a letter from Gauteng director of public prosecutions Charin de Beer which Selebi believes initiated the investigation against him and which also contains allegations against a senior NPA member and a senior member of the Johannesburg Bar;
  • Details on when money was withdrawn from murdered mining boss Brett Kebble’s Spring Lights account allegedly to bribe Selebi.

Judge Coetzee said that nobody had shown him that there would be any harm, prejudice or threat to national security by letting Selebi’s lawyers see the information.

He accepted Nel’s word that the state had no ulterior motive to thwart the defence when it did not hand information over.

Tlali Tlali, spokesperson for the NPA said: “Naturally we are disappointed with the outcome of the case.”

He said, however, the NPA respected the fact that the court gave both sides an opportunity to present their arguments and they would study the judgment to consider their options.

They could not rule out the possibility of an appeal.

Dramatic new details
Attached to Selebi’s latest court application were some new pieces of evidence already disclosed to him by the prosecution — including the letter that set the Selebi case in motion.

Marked “Top Secret”, it is a letter from NPA boss Charin de Beer to the regional head of the Scorpions and is dated January 24 2006.

De Beer attached a document addressed to the NPA which makes the allegation of a close relationship between Glenn Agliotti, Jackie Selebi, Clint Nassif and Brett Kebble — and sketches out the operation of Nassif’s security company in particular detail.

It was this letter and an incident where Selebi allegedly phoned Agliotti in the presence of police investigators who were probing Kebble’s murder that prompted the Scorpions to launch their own investigation.