Police detain photographers at court

2010-09-22 09:13

Three photographers were detained for 45 minutes at the Musina Police Station today where members of an alleged rhino poaching syndicate were expected to appear in court.

“They [the police] were pretty rough, they literally dragged us by our collars,” one of the photographers, who did not want to be named, told Sapa.

The three photographers were waiting outside the holding cells to take pictures of the nine people, who include two veterinarians and a game farmer, accused of being the masterminds behind a rhino poaching ring.

The holding cells are at the police station which is next to the Musina Magistrates Court building.

While the photographers were waiting, police officials came out and dragged them off to an office.

They were told to wait there for 45 minutes before being released again.

No reasons were given for the police’s actions.

National police spokesperson Colonel Vishnu Naidoo said he was still trying to find out from his colleague in Musina what had happened.

“I think there was a misunderstanding there,” he said.

Inside court, stony-faced family members of the accused waited silently for the case to start.

The public gallery was half-full, with family members refusing to talk to the media.

The case was expected to get under way by 9am, but had not started by 10am.

The accused were yet to be brought into the court room.

The police on Monday pounced on the two veterinarians, who are said to be well-known in the town of Modimolle, and owned an animal clinic and a wildlife organisation involved in catching and transporting game.

The nine arrested included the spouse of one of the veterinarians and a game farmer and his wife.

Naidoo said the veterinarians were believed to be the masterminds behind a rhino poaching syndicate.

The Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (Phasa) said it was hugely disappointing that professional people who held trusted positions in society, could be involved in such a crime.

“Phasa will support any motion to oppose bail given to these people. The mere R2 000 bail that was recently awarded in another case, is a crime by itself,” said Adri Kitshoff, Phasa’s chief executive officer.

The SA Veterinary Council said that any veterinarian found guilty of disgracing the profession through improper conduct may be barred from practising.

“The council may impose, if a person is found guilty of disgraceful, improper or unprofessional conduct... [punishment ranging] from a reprimand to the withdrawal of registration to practice as a veterinarian,” it said in a statement.

More than 200 rhinos have been killed for their horns since the beginning of this year - up from a total of 122 poached last year.

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