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Pretoria - The State was clearly biased towards some of the Boeremag accused as it called for a harsher punishment for some who were less involved than others in the organisation’s activities.
This was the rebuttal argument by advocate Piet Pistorius in the Pretoria High Court on Monday.
The defence had a second chance at arguing in mitigation of sentence after the State concluded its argument last week, calling for the court to deal harshly with the bulk of the 19 accused.
At the time, the leader of the prosecution team, advocate Paul Fick, asked Judge Eben Jordaan to impose a life sentence on nine of the accused.
He asked the judge to evaluate each accused according to his individual involvement in the plot to overthrow the government.
Pistorius said on Monday there was a huge disparity in what the State called for, as it asked for a 10-year sentence in some cases in which the accused were far more involved in the coup plot than those who the State said should serve a life sentence.
One such example, he said, was Dr Lets Pretorius and his three sons, Kobus, Wilhelm and Johan, who the State asked should each serve a life term behind bars.
“It is clear that the State is placing them in a different position than the other accused.”
Pistorius added that he simply did not understand the logic behind the State’s argument that those who had less of a role to play had to serve a harsher sentence.
He also argued that it was unfair for the State to blame the accused for the lengthy (10-year) trial. Pistorius said he did not know of a single accused who tried to prolong it.
It was inevitable that the trial took some time, as there were often intricate legal issues which had to be debated and researched.
The defence often sat through the night preparing for urgent applications so as not to delay the trial further, he said.
He also questioned the State’s argument that the accused voiced their remorse only now that the prison doors were standing open for them. Pistorius said it was inevitable that the bulk of the accused, especially those awaiting trial in jail, had started the rehabilitation process.
“Some have been behind bars for 11 years. It is a long time and it is inevitable that the rehabilitation process has started.”
He especially referred to Rudi Gouws, who was a young man when he was arrested and who, for the past 11 years, had been locked up every single day of his life.
Pistorius also frowned upon the State’s argument that some of the accused, such as Dr Lets Pretorius, were a danger to society.
Pistorius said his client, upon his release on bail, performed his duties as a doctor, and in fact saved lives. “Murders, rapists and paedophiles are dangerous criminals, not my clients,” he said.
Lawyer Paul Kruger accused the State of being on a witch-hunt in asking that the accused be punished for the potential repercussions of their actions when they partook in the coup plot. He said this was like holding a speedster responsible for the lives he could have taken when speeding down a road.
He also questioned the State’s contention that it should not be mitigation that the crimes were committed for political reasons. Kruger said the accused wanted a peaceful solution to the country’s political problems.
“They asked for permission to establish a volkstaat, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. They became increasingly frustrated as government, for example, established a unit against rhino poaching but did nothing about farm murders. Nor did the director of public prosecutions act against Julius Malema inciting violence.”
The trial proceeds.