A High Court judge in Pretoria on Friday ordered that six of the Boeremag treason trial accused be allowed to appear in court without leg irons.
Six of the eleven accused launched a successful urgent application to have their privileges restored.
Their privileges were summarily removed without consultation after five of their fellow accused tried to escape during a tea break at the court on May 31.
The five would-be escapees will however remain in shackles when they appear in court.
‘Punished for something they did not do’
Brothers Johan, Wilhelm and Kobus Pretorius, Adriaan van Wyk, Dirk Hanekom and Andre du Toit said they had nothing to do with the escape bid or the 2006 escape of Herman van Rooyen and Rudi Gouws and were being punished for something they did not do.
Van Rooyen and Gouws were on the run for eight months after escaping from the court cells and were among the five who tried to escape in May.
The police opposed the application as they said the latest escape bid was still being investigated and they had information that another escape was being planned.
It could not be excluded that the six applicants might have been involved in smuggling a mixture of red pepper, thinners and ammonia, which were used on police during the violent escape attempt, police said.
The six applicants maintained the presence of more than 24 police officers and leg irons had not stopped the others from trying to escape.
Judge Roger Claassen said the six applicants were not amongst those who tried to escape and they had also not been charged in connection with the escape bid.
Police negligence not ruled out
The judge said one could not help but think that the police might have been negligent in the whole affair.
He said it was difficult to attach much value to the police’s objections to the six men’s leg irons being removed, as no specific information was revealed about past and future escape plans.
The judge also restored the six accused’s contact visits with their families at court on Fridays and ruled they may once again receive food and other parcels.
He said there was no proof that any of the applicants had helped to smuggle the substances used during the escape attempt into court.
Contact visits were of particular importance to the accused as no such visits were allowed at the Pretoria Local Prison.
Without it, some of the accused would never even have been able to hold their newborn children.
Five of the accused have been divorced since their trial commenced eight years ago.
Judge Claassen further ruled that the accused may use their laptop computers in court, but may not bring in carry bags and that their cells may only be locked at 10pm.
He however refused the six men’s application to be transported to court separately from the others.
The judge said he was convinced that a possible further escape attempt by the others did not endanger their lives to such an extent that it justified the claim.
The trial will resume on Monday, when defence counsel will continue with final legal argument.
It is expected that it may take up to another two years to complete the trial. — Sapa