3 Boeremag members in prison for treason want to be released, say their trial was unlawful

2019-06-18 16:48
Wilhelm Pretorius, Dr. Lets Pretorius and  Johan Pretorius were convicted and sentenced  in 2013.(Theana Breugem, Netwerk24)

Wilhelm Pretorius, Dr. Lets Pretorius and Johan Pretorius were convicted and sentenced in 2013.(Theana Breugem, Netwerk24)

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Three Boeremag members found guilty of treason have again turned to the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, asking that their trial be declared unlawful and that they be released unconditionally.

Lets Pretorius and his two sons, Johan Pretorius and Wilhelm Pretorius, approached the court on Tuesday, bringing an application to have their case declared null and void on constitutional grounds.

Advocate Hercules Booysen, for the accused, told the court that the Boeremag members, a right wing group, had a number of their rights violated during and after the trial.

"One of the rights that we regard as being violated is their right to appeal," Booysen said.

READ: Boeremag terrorist and 'master bomb maker' who tried to overthrow SA govt says Leeuwkop Prison rehabilitated him

After their conviction and sentencing in 2013, the three Boeremag members attempted to appeal, but after being denied leave to appeal, they were unable to approach the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) directly as they were not given the necessary documentation, Booysen argued.

According to Booysen, the three convicted men tried for nearly five years to get the documentation, including the order refusing leave to appeal from the registrar of the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, but were unsuccessful.

He said the fight to file an appeal with the SCA led to a protracted trial that went on for 16 years, adding that his clients have the right to a reasonable trial length.

Complaint filed with UN

Booysen said the three men then turned to the United Nations, filing a complaint with the Human Rights Committee, claiming that their rights had been violated. 

He added that the complaint was laid in terms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is implemented by the Human Rights Committee and which South Africa is a signatory to.

"The trial must be declared unlawful, null and void and the accused should be entitled to be released," Booysen said.

Judge Peter Mabuse asked Booysen what would then happen to the trial and the offences that the accused were found guilty of.

Booysen said that, because of the "violations" endured by the three Boeremag members, the charges should be quashed, their criminal records removed, and an order made that no retrial can take place.

He added that all three accused had already served six years in prison, and that they had already been "very harshly" punished.

Application is frivolous

Advocate Zinzile Matabese, acting on behalf of the State, the Minister of Justice, Correctional Services, and the National Director of Public Prosecutions, argued that the application was vexatious and frivolous.

Matebese argued that the High Court did not have the jurisdiction or power to review itself and that these matters should be dealt with in a superior court.

He added that the application should be argued in the SCA and the fact that a complaint has been laid with the Human Rights Committee did not change the court's jurisdiction.

READ: Boeremag leader surprised by 25-year sentence

In 2013, Lets Pretorius was sentenced to 20 years in prison, while his two sons were each given a life sentence. Lets' third son, Kobus Pretorius, who was the "master bomb maker" was sentenced to 20 years, of which 10 were suspended.

Kobus has since become alienated from his family and was not part of the application.

In 2002, the Boeremag claimed responsibility for a series of bomb attacks in Soweto, one of which killed a woman. They had also planned to assassinate former president Nelson Mandela.

Their goal was to destroy the new democracy in the country.  

Judgment has been reserved.

Read more on:    boeremag  |  united nations  |  north gauteng high court

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