Man found guilty of 'war crimes' was granted SA visa, court hears

2017-12-08 21:15
Augustinus Petrus Kouwenhoven at the Cape Town Magistrate's Court (Jenni Evans, News24)

Augustinus Petrus Kouwenhoven at the Cape Town Magistrate's Court (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town – A man, convicted of being an accessory to war crimes for selling weapons to former Liberian president Charles Taylor, was issued with a temporary visa to stay in South Africa until 2020.

This emerged in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Friday during the appearance of 75-year-old Augustinus Petrus Kouwenhoven.

Kouwenhoven was arrested in Fresnaye at 08:00, ahead of his possible extradition and handover to Dutch authorities.

READ: Fugitive Dutch arms dealer linked to Liberian war nabbed in Cape Town

He was surrounded by police officers as he walked to the courtroom and waited for his appearance.

Prosecutor Christopher Burke told Magistrate Phakama Madinda that a Dutch court had found Kouwenhoven guilty of war crimes, arms trading and crimes against humanity.

The Dutch government made a request for his provisional arrest, and warrants were obtained and executed in Cape Town on Friday morning. 

The prosecution indicated that it would oppose bail and said it needed time to prepare for a bail hearing.

A fugitive from justice

"The State has reason to believe that Mr Kouwenhoven is a fugitive from justice which makes him a flight risk," Burke said.

The law usually allows a seven-day remand for bail to be obtained. 

Burke proposed a compromise that involved keeping the accused in the Sea Point police cells until Tuesday so that the State could gather the information they needed.

However, Kouwenhoven’s advocate, Liuba Stansfield, rejected the suggestion, saying her client was terminally ill with usual interstitial pneumonia - a form of lung disease.

He is also HIV positive.

"His immune system is so weakened by the pneumonia with which he has been diagnosed," she said.

A weakened immune system

These two factors make his immune system extremely vulnerable to possible infection in the "unsanitary" conditions of the Sea Point police cells, the court heard.

She said they were astounded by Kouwenhoven's arrest on Friday, adding that he had instructed his lawyers at the beginning of the year already about a possible arrest.

His lawyers had apparently been in frequent contact with an official at the South African Department of Justice in anticipation of an attempt to arrest him in the long-running case against him.

The official assured him he would not be arrested and that any communication in that regard would be forwarded through "diplomatic channels".

He had also prepared an affidavit in July in case he was arrested.

He has been living in South Africa with his wife and two children, and had been excused from attending his trial in the Dutch court this year, because of his illness.

"He was certified by a medical doctor as being unable to fly," said Stansfield.

'Not in hiding'

"He hasn't been hiding that they can only find him now. He is going nowhere"  

In addition, the court also heard that the South African Department of Home Affairs gave him a visa in August to let him stay in South Africa until 2020.

Stansfield proposed house arrest and said she could not understand why the police brought him to court when they knew what she had told the court.

But Burke said the National Prosecuting Authority had to carry out its own checks.

It did not want Kouwenhoven out of custody while it did so.

Burke also wanted to know how Kouwenhoven obtained a visa. 

Madinda granted the State's request for a remand until Tuesday.

Head of the Cape Town police cluster Major-General Jeremy Vearey was at court for a short period and praised the police.

"I commend Captain Althea Noemda-Jefta for the hard work and dedication by her and her team which brought this result," he said.

Read more on:    npa  |  charles taylor  |  augustinus petrus kouwenhoven  |  liberia  |  war crimes

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