The Boeremag treason trial’s oldest accused, Vis Visagie, was rushed to hospital on Wednesday after falling ill in the dock.
One of his co-accused, Dr Lets Pretorius, treated the 72-year-old Visagie in court, but said tests would have to be done to ascertain what was wrong. Visagie was then taken to hospital.
Visagie, Mike du Toit, Herman van Rooyen, Tom Vorster and Rudi Gouws on Tuesday tried to escape from the court after spraying an ammonia-like substance into the eyes of police guarding them.
Van Rooyen managed to run into the street, but police officers, with the help of security guards and car guards, captured him close to the Palace of Justice across the street within minutes and dragged him back to court.
Vorster, who according to some eyewitnesses slipped and fell, was captured in the foyer after an apparent tussle with a policewoman.
The other three were caught just outside the door of Court GD in the high court building in Vermeulen Street.
Four police officers, including the female officer who stopped Vorster before he could run through the exit door, and a security guard were taken to hospital but were all released after treatment.
Du Toit was brought to court on Wednesday but remained in the cells, complaining that he was not feeling well.
Another accused, Kobus Pretorius, complained that he was emotionally under pressure, could not see his psychiatrist and “could not go on like this”.
Visagie collapsed shortly after one of the defence advocates, Louisa van der Walt, resumed her final legal argument, resulting in the trial being delayed for a further day.
Two of the original 22 Boeremag accused, Herman Scheepers and Frederick Boltman, have died since the trial started eight years ago.
The five would-be escapees appeared in court in leg irons and belly chains on Wednesday while the six other accused who are in custody with them also had to wear leg irons for the first time.
Prosecutor Paul Fick SC said the accused had lost all privileges, to prevent a recurrence of Tuesday’s escape bid.
He said the five accused could still move their arms in belly chains, but it “was no longer so easy to fight”.
Fick asked that the incarcerated accused must remain in chains for the remainder of the trial.
He said the accused in custody would no longer be able to get food or any other packages in court, may not bring anything with them, including laptop computers, and may no longer have contact visits with their family members in court.
This was because some of the “apparatus” used during the escape bid had been smuggled into court in nose-spray bottles and a toothpaste tube.
Instead of remaining in court during breaks, the accused will be locked up in the court cells, where they will from now on also have to consult with their legal representatives.
The accused who are out on bail and family members will also not be allowed to bring in parcels for the others.
On the run
One of the defence advocates, Daan Mostert, complained that his clients had not tried to escape, yet had lost all of their privileges and had to wear leg irons.
Piet Pistorius, appearing for Herman van Rooyen and Rudi Gouws, said he wanted to put on record that his clients even had to sleep in leg irons as part of the “punishment” meted out to them in jail.
Their computers, containing privileged instructions to their advocate, had also been confiscated and not returned, he added.
Van Rooyen and Gouws were on the run from police for eight months after escaping from the court cells in 2006.
Both seemed relaxed and were smiling when they were brought back to court on Wednesday.
Police National Commissioner Bheki Cele’s spokesperson, Sally de Beer, said investigators already had a good idea what had happened during the escape attempt, but the commissioner first wanted to get the full report before commenting.
She said none of the police officers involved in the incident had sustained serious injuries and they were all released from hospital on Tuesday night. — Sapa