Guatemalan murder accused getting ‘preferential treatment’ – human rights lawyer

Guatemalan Diego Dougherty received a lot of money from his family and trust fund. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)
Guatemalan Diego Dougherty received a lot of money from his family and trust fund. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Cape Town - A number of women attending court proceedings involving Guatemalan murder accused Diego Dougherty have objected to him not being held in the awaiting-trial section of Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town.

When he appeared in the Western Cape High Court on Friday, he was told he would remain in the prison’s hospital section for another month.

His lawyer William Booth had helped him secure a spot there after convincing the court that his client was at risk of being assaulted or killed in "atrocious" prison cells that held around 40 inmates.

The custody arrangement followed a psychiatric evaluation at Valkenberg.

Human rights lawyer Judith Cohen, sitting in the public gallery with six other members of the Camps Bay Shul on Friday, was infuriated when the case was postponed.

READ: Alban's life worth 'less than a Chanel purse' – cousin

‘Atrocious’ conditions

She compared the hospital section to a “5-star hotel”.

“All of us are totally outraged at what we perceive as preferential treatment that this prison inmate is receiving,” she said outside court afterward.

“We all know in South Africa that at Pollsmoor Prison, conditions are atrocious. Why is it that a rich kid from Guatemala gets to stay in the prison hospital section?”

Dougherty is accused of murdering his girlfriend, 39-year-old US marketing executive Gabriela Kabrins Alban, at the Camps Bay Retreat boutique hotel in July 2015.

Novella and Alban were a couple at the time of her murder. Alban was strangled and sustained blunt force trauma to the face.

Cohen said Dougherty was taking a bed and medical care away from other South Africans who desperately needed hospital care.

“If it is for his protection then surely he can remain in a single cell? We would really hope that the prosecution in future reviews this matter.”

The synagogue that Cohen attends is opposite the boutique hotel. The congregants reached out to support the slain woman’s family and regularly attend court proceedings.

They said special prayers on the anniversary of her death, in terms of religious custom.

The court heard on Friday that the State and defence were still in negotiations. Booth said he had submitted documentation to the State, including from reports from their expert witness, private psychiatrist Professor Tuviah Zabow.

A trial date had been set down for May 15 to June 30, and August 7 to 31.

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