SA man embroiled in bizarre court case

2010-12-26 10:00

A South African contractor working in Afghanistan has been arrested and spirited away across the world under a controversial United States law.

Sean Brehm (44) arrived in the US on Tuesday and is being held in custody near ­Washington, DC.

Brehm, who ran a VIP ­protection company in Cape Town and who had been working in Afghanistan since October last year, was arrested at the ­Kandahar Air Force Base last month after allegedly stabbing and severely wounding a British contractor in a dispute.

At the time, Brehm was ­employed as a travel consultant for US Department of Defence contractor DynCorp.
Brehm was held for more than three weeks by military police before being extradited to the US under the Military ­Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act.

The act gives the US ­extraordinary and far-reaching powers to prosecute contractors ­employed by the Department of Defence or by companies with Department of Defence contracts – including foreign nationals – and to try them in the US for crimes committed in other countries.

Brehm’s wife, Carol, this week claimed that her husband had been treated unfairly. “How can you take somebody to a country they have never been to without having given them any prior warning?”

She said there had been “bad blood” between her husband and the British contractor for a “long time, apparently over a woman”.

Carol claimed her husband had tried to avoid the fight and to call the military police before being “chased down” and ­attacked.

In an affidavit filed in the US court, FBI special agent Viet Nguyen said the British contractor and Brehm had a “verbal ­altercation” and came to blows.

An army criminal investigations division agent had ­witnessed Brehm stabbing the other contractor twice, injuring him in the arm and abdomen.

One witness, described as a “previous acquaintance” of Brehm, said he believed Brehm had been acting in self-defence.

In a hearing via telephone on December 10, a US federal ­magistrate ordered Brehm be held in custody and ­“removed” to the US to stand trial.

Brehm appeared briefly in court on Tuesday and was transferred into federal custody. He has yet to be formally charged and the US government has 30 days in which to seek an indictment from a secret grand jury.

Meanwhile, his wife is frantic. “Sean’s ability to mount an ­effective defence is so impaired that it is highly reminiscent of something out of the Star Chamber (a pejorative term for secret and arbitrary court ­proceedings),” she charged.

Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Clayson Monyela said the department would be providing consular services to Brehm and his family.

Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau, spokesperson for the US embassy in Pretoria, said that in ­instances where foreign nationals were extradited to the US to stand trial, the embassy “works very closely with our host country’s law enforcement agencies”.

Michael Nachmanoff, a federal public defender representing Brehm, declined to comment.

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