‘Hold trial or pay up’

2015-12-01 11:07
Rajivee Soni

Rajivee Soni

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Pietermaritzburg - If businessman Rajivee Soni’s murder trial is adjourned until next year, the defence could try to recover the costs of the adjournment from the state.

This latest development followed revelations by the prosecution yesterday that some of the expert witnesses the state still needs to call in connection with the ongoing “trial within a trial” over the admissibility of a video recording, are not available to testify this week.

One expert, whose report is outstanding, is based in Italy and another is on leave, the court heard.

The suggestion that the state could, at the end of this week, request to postpone the case until next year, drew a heated response from defence attorney Naren Sangham.

He indicated if that happens the ­defence will seek an order that costs for the adjournment be borne by the state in terms of a section of the Criminal Procedure Act.

Sangham suggested to Judge ­Jacqueline Henriques and assessor Gerhard Barnard that Soni was being denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

He accused state advocate Johan du Toit of adopting a “blasé attitude” about ensuring the state’s evidence was finalised.

Sangham submitted that state witnesses who were needed to testify should be present at court at all times to give their evidence.

“All of them are in the employ of the state … they are receiving their salaries at the end of the month even if they don’t testify,” he said.

Sangham said if the state could not produce its witnesses it should “live or die” by the evidence already before court.

“Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. If the court accedes to the request by the state to postpone this matter it will be denying the accused his right to a fair and expeditious trial,” he said.

Sangham said the defence experts were available to attend court on December 2 and 3 this week, and the defence was ready to proceed with its case in the trial within a trial.

Du Toit will reply to various concerns raised by Sangham, including the cost issue, when the case resumes tomorrow.

The trial within a trial relates to a video recording made by a state witness Professor Sithebe on his cellphone, allegedly on February 20, 2013.

Sithebe, a former security company manager, has already testified that Soni asked him in early 2013 to kill his love rival, Dr Bhavish Sewram for R100 000.

Sithebe said being a Christian person he could not carry out the murder and instead he tipped the doctor off about Soni’s plan.

According to his evidence he took a video of Soni whilst driving with him in the vicinity of the doctor’s surgery, after he had already tipped off the doctor.

At that stage, Sithebe told the court he had lied to Soni by telling him that he had shot at the doctor but only hit him in the leg.

The defence is disputing the admissibility and authenticity of the cellphone video recording, which was allegedly recovered by police from Cash Crusaders where Sithebe pawned the cellphone.

Soni is charged with later hiring other hitmen to kill Sewram. The doctor was gunned down as he was leaving his surgery in Chota Motala Road on the night of May 13, 2013.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  court  |  soni

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