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01 Jun 2011 12:36
Security was stepped up at the Palace of Justice in Pretoria on Wednesday after a foiled escape attempt by five of the 20 Boeremag treason trialists, police said.
Spokesperson Brigadier Sally de Beer said the accused’s “privileges” had been withdrawn, including being able to have contact with their families and to receive food parcels from family and friends.
Strict limitations had also been put in place on what those attending court could take into the court.
De Beer would not elaborate on the increased security.
“Obviously, I can’t go into too much detail, but these are just some of the measures,” she said.
On Tuesday one of the accused, Herman van Rooyen, broke a glass door at the court exit, sprayed ammonia into a security guard’s eyes and ran into the street.
He was caught within minutes by the police, with the help of car guards, in Paul Kruger Street close to the Palace of Justice on Church Square and dragged back into the court.
Another accused, Tom Vorster, physically attacked a policewoman, but she hit back and brought him under control.
Another three of the accused—Mike du Toit, Vis Visagie and Rudi Gouws—were caught inside the court before they could escape.
A policewoman, three policemen and a security guard had to be taken to hospital after ammonia was sprayed in their eyes.
The ammonia was apparently smuggled into court in nose-spray bottles.
The trial of the so-called Boeremag members for alleged treason recently entered its eighth year. The accused face more than 40 charges relating to a right-wing plot to overthrow the government.
Van Rooyen and Gouws had been manacled before their attempt to escape on Tuesday.
They had worn the manacles in court ever since they were recaptured following months on the run after escaping from custody at the high court in Pretoria in 2006.
On Tuesday morning, these manacles were found inside court GD, where legal argument for the defence continued.
At the time, De Beer said it was not clear how they had removed their leg irons.
This would form part of the investigation into the incident.
She said the police would request that all the accused wore leg irons in future.
All of them, including eight out on bail, were dragged back into court in the immediate aftermath of the escape attempt.
Their trial began in Pretoria’s Palace of Justice in May 2003.
The state started presenting evidence only five months later and closed its case in June 2007 after calling 158 witnesses.
Numerous legal wrangles, including several applications about the conditions in jail and many Legal Aid Board disputes, have stretched the trial into one of the longest-running criminal trials in South African legal history.—Sapa
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