Boeremag trio may be deemed prisoners of war

Time of article published Apr 26, 2010

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By Zelda Venter

High Court Reporter

Another day, another twist in the Boeremag trial.

Three brothers among the 21 men on trial, and possibly others in the group, are to ask the Pretoria High Court to declare them prisoners of war.

One of the trio, Dr Johan Pretorius, who is under cross-examination by the State after giving evidence in his defence, told Judge Eben Jordaan last week that he was not a criminal, but had been a soldier and a liberation fighter for the "Boerevolk".

He said he and others had acted in a legitimate international liberation struggle for self-determination for the Boerevolk.

He called on the judge to afford him protection in terms of the Geneva Convention and Protocols and asked to be treated as a prisoner of war instead of as a criminal.

He is relying on the Geneva Convention in refusing to answer further questions by the State.

Counsel for his brothers, Wilhelm and Kobus, told the court that they, too, had instructions to launch an application for the judge to declare them prisoners of war.

The brothers, who are among the 13 who are being held in C-Max Prison, hoped that if declared prisoners of war, they would be freed as "the war is over", their father, Dr Lets Pretorius, on trial with them, said.

The court has stood down until Wednesday so an application may be prepared.

Some of the other men on trial are considering joining the brothers in their application.

Johan Pretorius was among the accused who, as the trial began seven years ago, refused to plead to the 43 charges against him, saying he did not recognise the present justice system. A plea of not guilty was noted.

The 21 men in the dock in the first treason trial since the end of apartheid rule are facing charges that range from terrorism and sabotage to murder.

They are accused of having been involved in several attacks aimed at overthrowing the government during 2002. These included an explosion at a railway track in Soweto in which a woman was killed, blasts at a mosque and at the police air wing at Grand Central Airport, and an attempt to blow up the Buddhist Temple in Bronkhorstspruit.

It is also alleged they conspired to kill former president Nelson Mandela.

The trial is slowly drawing towards a close, with a handful of accused yet to take the stand in their defence. It is estimated the trial may be concluded next year, making it the longest-running criminal trial in South African legal history.

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