Beeld to lay charges over Krejcir restaurant photo row

Beeld newspaper intends laying criminal charges after its team was allegedly harassed for taking pictures of a restaurant frequented by Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir, the South African National Editors' Forum said on Thursday.

Sanef condemned an incident at the Harbour Fish & Meat Market on Wednesday and said it would complain to police commissioner Riah Phiyega.

It said restaurant employees seized a Beeld photographer's camera after he took pictures of the restaurant from the parking lot of the Bedford Centre.

"After spotting the photographer, two men left the restaurant and aggressively approached the Beeld team in their vehicle," it said.

"They removed camera equipment from the journalists' vehicle and grabbed the camera from photographer Cornél van Heerden's hands."

They returned to the restaurant with the equipment.

The journalists called the Bedford Centre's security, who allegedly refused to intervene and return the equipment.

Beeld then called the Bedfordview police station, which dispatched three officers to the scene.

The restaurant offered to release the equipment on condition that pictures of their restaurant be deleted in front of them.

"Shockingly, the South African Police Service members present agreed that the pictures should be deleted," Beeld editor Adriaan Basson said in the statement.

He advised his team to delete the photos, get their camera equipment and leave.

"It was clear to me that we were in harm's way and I didn't want to put my colleagues at risk by continuing the argument with people who clearly have no clue about freedom of expression," said Basson.

After the photos were deleted, the camera equipment was returned.

 He was enraged by the restaurant's actions, as the pictures were taken from a public space.

"We have seen numerous photos and footage of the restaurant before. This was a complete overreaction by the restaurant and a failure by the Bedford Centre's management to intervene."

Sanef said it would take the matter further.

"Sanef is to complain to police commissioner General Riah Phiyega and request that disciplinary action be taken against the police officers who removed the pictures on the grounds of theft," it said.

Management at the restaurant declined to comment on Thursday, saying that only the owner, who was not there, could do so.

Krejcir made headlines this week when a bomb exploded at his business premises in Bedfordview on the East Rand.

The device went off late on Tuesday at Krejcir's Money Point gold and diamond exchange office, next to the Eastgate shopping centre.

Two people were killed and five others injured.

On Wednesday, police combed the scene for clues and evidence.

In July, Krejcir was the target of an apparent assassination attempt outside his Bedfordview office.

As he was leaving the parking lot, an explosive device was detonated from the back of a vehicle which was parked opposite his vehicle. Krejcir escaped unharmed.

About three weeks earlier, Krejcir's Bedfordview business was broken into and jewellery worth R3-million was stolen.

Case postponed
On Monday, a case against a man accused of involvement in a plot to kill Krejcir was postponed to November by the Germiston Regional Court.

Brendan Harrison was denied bail after investigators claimed his life would be at risk if he was not kept in custody.

Krejcir is due back in the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court on December 9 for his extradition case.

Magistrate William Schutte will assess progress made in Krejcir's bid for asylum, currently with the Refugee Appeal Board.

Krejcir was sentenced in the Czech Republic last year after being convicted in absentia of money-laundering.

He could face an 11-year sentence if extradited. – Sapa

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