Arms deal commission dismisses LHR complaint

2014-05-30 07:24
Willie Seriti (Picture: Sapa)

Willie Seriti (Picture: Sapa)

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Johannesburg - Admiral Jonathan Kamerman did not get preferential treatment when he testified at the Seriti Commission of Inquiry into the 1999 arms deal, the commission said on Thursday.

The commission was responding to Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), who said on Wednesday they were prevented from cross-examining Kamerman.

"The LHR's complaint is that Mr Kamerman was given preferential treatment because he had been given copies of the submissions made by their client to the Commission," spokesperson William Baloyi said.

"This complaint is rather disingenuous. Firstly, the LHR had been given copies of the statement of this witness and the question is why should the submissions of their clients not be made available to him.

"Secondly, the submissions made by their clients contain serious allegations levelled at Mr Kamerman and it is only logical that he had to be made aware of these so that he could respond thereto."

Baloyi said Kamerman's statement was signed the day before he testified and only became available the morning he testified.

He said it often happened and this was not an exception.

765 pages of evidence

The LHR represents Andrew Feinstein, Hennie van Vuuren and Paul Holden, who have written books about the multi-billion rand arms deal.

The LHR said it was given one day to consider Kamerman's 765-page evidence, which made preparation and conducting a proper cross-examination impossible.

"The LHR was hindered this week from effectively cross-examining Rear Admiral Jonathan Kamerman on his technical knowledge of the purchase of corvettes forming part of arms deal, and allegations of corruption against him," the lawyers said in a statement on Wednesday.

Baloyi said the LHR were afforded time like everyone else to cross-examine Kamerman, but were not ready to do so.

He said the LHR had in the past requested more time to prepare and had been allowed to do so.

"What the Commission did not allow was for [their counsel] to read a pre-prepared document that has turned out to be a media statement released to the media," he said.

"It became clear to the Commission that a prior decision had been taken not to cross-examine and to come up with an excuse for not doing so. It is an approach that the LHR has adopted in the past."

He said parties were free to ask for more time to prepare and each request would be treated on its own merit.

Baloyi said classified documents could only be made available to interested parties once declassified and the LHR had requested documents that had not been declassified.

Adjourned

The inquiry adjourned on Tuesday and was postponed to Monday for the testimony of former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils.

The commission, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, is tasked with investigating alleged corruption in the multi-billion rand deal.

The government acquired, among other items, 26 Gripen fighter aircraft and 24 Hawk lead-in fighter trainer aircraft for the SA Air Force, and frigates and submarines for the SA Navy.


- SAPA
Read more on:    arms deal
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