COURT: Judgment reserved in lawyer’s defamation claim

2007-12-14 00:00

A Pietermaritzburg High Court judge has reserved judgment in a defamation action filed by the former attorney for Pakistani businessman Wassim Agha, over claims that she had a "love affair" with her client soon after the murders of his wife, Aneesa Sukan, their baby daughter Zil and Sukan’s father, Anand, in March 2004.

Agha’s former attorney, Sheena Raghavjee, is suing the the minister of Safety and Security and that national police commissioner for R500 000 over the allegation, which was aired during evidence led at Agha’s August 2004 bail application by Superintendent Anton Booysen.

Agha was charged with the murders, but was later acquitted.

Judge Piet Koen yesterday said he will take time to give judgment on the matter after hearing further evidence and legal argument presented by Con Hartzenberg, SC, for Raghavjee and Rishi Seegobin, SC, for the police.

Hartzenberg submitted that Booysen ought to have been "very careful to ensure he had a factual basis" for making a statement with such damaging potential.

Raghavjee has denied in evidence at the defamation trial that she had a relationship with Agha. She testified that she socialised with Agha on occasions during the course of her professional attorney-client relationship with him, in the presence of other people.

Earlier yesterday, another witness, Vidasha Mungal, told the court that she made a statement to police on August 25, 2004 stating that she had seen Agha "holding hands" with a "very attractive" woman at a concert at the Suncoast Casino in June 2004 — three months after Agha’s wife’s death.

Under cross-examination by Hartzenberg, Mungal agreed that it is possible that Agha was conducting himself in a "chivalrous" manner by showing the woman to her seat.

Asked by the judge to describe exactly what she had meant by "holding hands", Mungal said the couple’s arms were entwined at the elbow.

She testified that at the time she did not think it was important, but said she mentioned what she’d seen to Aneesa Sukan’s mother, Zarina, who was a client at the firm where she was employed.

Mungal said Zarina Sukan then asked her to go to court during Agha’s bail hearing and "see if the lady was there".

Mungal said she went to court and identified the woman there.

Later that day — August 25, 2004 — a policeman came to her office and asked her to make a statement, which she did.

Durban man Kreben Dhaver testified earlier in the trial that he saw Agha "behaving very affectionately with a very pretty lady" at a Bollywood concert at the Suncoast Casino within months of his wife’s murder.

Dhaver was a former school friend of Aneesa Sukan. He said he recognised Agha from photographs, having never seen him in the flesh.

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