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Pretoria - A prominent Pretoria advocate is in a stable condition after he was admitted to the city’s Mediclinic Heart Hospital on Thursday after being injected with an unknown substance outside the Pretoria High Court.
Jaap Cilliers, a senior counsel at the Brooklyn Chambers, left the court building on Wednesday afternoon after concluding a civil case when an unknown person walked up to him and injected him in the buttocks.
It was reported that he felt a sharp sensation. Cilliers was taken to a doctor, who confirmed that he had been injected with a substance.
He was taken to hospital for blood tests to establish what substance he had been injected with. The motive for the attack is unknown and no arrests have been made.
Dr Wouter Basson, a friend of Cilliers’s, said the lawyer was doing fine in hospital. It was too early to say what he had been infected with.
“They are conducting a whole series of tests. We’ll have to wait and see. It could range from a needle with nothing to one with infected blood or poison,” Basson said.
It would be decided on Friday when Cilliers would be discharged, Basson said.
Cilliers is defending a multimillion-rand civil case on behalf of one of the parties in the Pretoria High Court. The claim, by Mauritian company SCI Essel Offshore Services Ltd against Fantasy Construction Central Ltd and three others, relates to hundreds of millions in surety being claimed back from the Mauritian company.
Meanwhile, the trial went ahead on Thursday without Cilliers, who had a junior counsel standing in for him during the cross-examination of a witness.
Judge Legodi Pathudi, who is presiding over the case, visited Cilliers in hospital late on Wednesday afternoon after he heard about the attack, to enquire after his well-being.
A call was made to Cilliers’s office and it was confirmed that he had been admitted to hospital.
Cilliers’s office at Brooklyn Chambers could not shed more light on his condition, other than to confirm that he was admitted to hospital for precautionary reasons and that he is in a stable condition.
Tokkie van Zyl, a colleague and advocate friend of Cilliers, is also still in the dark about what happened. “I spoke to Jaap this morning (Thursday) and it was going okay with him.
“I do not really know what happened, other than that he was injected in the buttocks with a substance in the street after he left the court. I did not want to ask him too many questions.”
Van Zyl said Cilliers had switched off his cellphone as he did not want to be disturbed.
It is not known who did this and why, Van Zyl said. He is also not sure whether Cilliers has opened a case yet, but doubted it as he had been in hospital since the attack.
Pretoria central police spokeswoman Sergeant Ann Poortman said no case had been opened.
Police could only investigate a case once a formal charge had been laid, she said. “Maybe a charge was opened at the Sunnyside police station.”
Sunnyside police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Marinda Swanepoel said no case had been opened at Sunnyside police station either.
In recent months, Cilliers represented Basson in his professional conduct hearing before the Health Professions Council of SA tribunal.
Cilliers was also Basson’s counsel in his prominent trial stemming from the days when Basson headed the apartheid regime’s chemical and biological warfare programme, known as Project Coast.
His other clients include former police commissioner Jackie Selebi and the Waterkloof Four.
Johan Burger from the Institute for Security Studies said he knew of a few similar incidents that had happened about a year ago.
“E-mails and SMSes were doing the rounds that people were being injected with contaminated blood, but it could not be confirmed,” he said.
Burger said as far as he was aware, the Cilliers incident was the first time a well-known legal expert had been attacked in “such a manner”.
“The attack could have been related to a case he is dealing with, or he could have been a random victim of someone who wanted to test the effect of a particular substance,” he said.