Judge explains why Louka can't go home to die

2015-04-22 15:24
George Louka (Jenni Evans, News24)

George Louka (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Johannesburg - George Louka, accused of murdering strip club owner Lolly Jackson, will stay in jail in South Africa until his trial in October, even though he is gravely ill, the High Court in Johannesburg ruled on Wednesday.

"The application for the accused's release must be dismissed," Judge Geraldine Borchers in the Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court where the application to release the terminally ill Louka was made.

The application was brought by the Department of Correctional Services in terms of Section 49e of the Correctional Services Act which, if granted, let's a terminally ill awaiting trial prisoner get medical care outside of the prison.

Borchers felt that although the application was brought by the department's Malebane, "I have formed the impression that Mr Malebane is really a front for the accused".

She said she was convinced by Louka's lawyer Owen Blumberg that there were compassionate grounds for his release, but the section used for the application did not cover this.

''The only guidance is Section 49e, no matter how passionate or compassionate I may feel towards the accused," she said.

'Terminal lung cancer'

The section provides for the national commissioner of correctional services, in consultation with the National Director of Public Prosecutions to issue a directive for procedures to be followed.

''This was done and placed before me. Its provisions do not purport to bind this court.''

It was ''common cause'' that Louka has terminal cancer of his lungs, which was spreading  through his body.

''He is frail and drawn, he uses oxygen from a tank now and then... it is clear that he has breathing problems. He coughs a lot and he must be assisted with his daily needs," she said.

She noted that Louka undertook, under oath, to return to South Africa to attend his trials as needed.

She also noted that he had intended to plead guilty in one of the cases relating to the possession of over R1m in stolen takkies, and that he denied killing Jackson.

He had blamed Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir, who himself faces a murder charge, and who, according to his lawyers, is also gravely ill.

The State had submitted that terminal illness in itself was not enough to grant a release because many people sufferer from an illnesses such as HIV/Aids, but still move around.

Receiving adequate care

''In my view the illness must be more severe than merely terminal.''

Louka's doctor had said that he could operate with difficulty, ''which is different to severely limited''.

Borchers noted that Louka could not have chemotherapy and only received palliative care, in the form of morphine, antibiotics and oxygen, to help him suffer as little as possible.

''The applicant did not say why [it] cannot continue to treat Louka adequately.''

She agreed with Blumberg and Louka's other advocate, Wayne Gibbs, that the best possible care for him would be in Cyprus with his family.

But he was receiving adequate care at the moment at the prison.

Borchers felt nothing was placed before her to suggest that Louka would return to court, and his release to Cyprus seemed to be considered as permanent.

He had said during surprise testimony from his wheelchair on Tuesday that he would be helped by a doctor in Cyprus at a secret address that he would only pass on to South African authorities once he felt safe.

Borchers said it was not clear whether he did nor did not take alleged threats by Krejcir seriously, or whether ''he just decided on his own that he did not want to stand trial for murder in SA''.

'He does not abide by the law'

Although he denied murdering Jackson, he only returned to South Africa when his safety was guaranteed by the police.

And this was after his attempts at resisting extradition had failed.

''His conduct must be assessed by his past behaviour and it made it difficult to accept his return [for trial].

''According to his own evidence, he does not abide by the law when it suits him," she said.

She also believed that letting Louka go would have the effect of stopping the trial, which she was not allowed to do.

Outside the court, Blumberg said that although he was disappointed, it was the best Borchers could do in terms of the law.

''Of course I am disappointed by the outcome," he said.

He believed the Correctional Services Act had limited the options, but he appreciated Borchers' concern for Louka.

He stressed that Louka was still innocent until found guilty and believed there might be constitutional issues related to the case.

Louka was being cared for very well at the Kgosi Mampuru prison, he said.

Louka's brother Demetris was due to arrive in Johannesburg on Wednesday and would go and visit his brother in prison.

Originally, his legal team had been on standby to buy four air tickets to fly him back to Cyprus.

His trial date has been set for October 12.

Read more on:    george louka  |  johannesburg  |  crime

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