Justice Minister used 'poorest of reasons' to refuse Janusz Walus parole - lawyer
Durban - The lawyer for Janusz Walus, the Polish immigrant who was convicted for the 1993 killing of Chris Hani, says the reasons used to deny his client parole do not hold water.
Julian Knight told Independent Media on Tuesday that the country’s justice and correctional service ministers keep on coming up with different reasons whenever they are asked by courts to decide on the matter.
The lawyer was reacting to Monday’s announcement by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola that he had decided to deny Walus parole for the fourth time. In turning down the parole request, Lamola said: “placing offender Walus on parole would negate the severity that the court sought when sentencing him.”
Knight said they are heading to court to get the decision reviewed but they are to decide which court to approach between the Constitutional Court and the local high court. He added that they will have an idea about the exact court in the coming days.
Slamming Lamola’s decision, Knight said he relied on a “poorest of reasons” which are sentencing remarks that were made by the presiding judge 27 years ago. He argued that by doing so, Lamola ignored the four court rulings that have been made in their favour regarding the parole request.
“He relies upon the sentence remarks made 27 years ago as outweighing all the other factors. Every single time, every single time there has been the need for a decision the various ministers have reached for the nearest fruit hanging from the tree… Each time they have a different one, each time, like a magician they pull a rabbit out of the hat,” Knight said.
Furthermore, Knight said according to his understanding of the law, the longer the sentence is served by an offender, the lesser the sentencing remarks become relevant. He cited two cases where the sentencing remarks were harsh but the offenders were later paroled.
“The sentence remarks can never change, that’s why if you look at your jurisprudence and your parole manuals that are applicable in this matter, your sentence remarks, the longer the person has served, and the longer they have rehabilitated themselves, the least important the sentence remarks become,” Knight said.
In response to the bid by Walus' legal team to review Lamola’s decision, a livid South African Communist Party (SACP) said thanks to the struggle waged by Hani, Walus should be grateful that death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment and his life was saved.
The party's spokesperson, Dr Alex Mashilo, said Walus, have tried everything in the book not to serve his prison sentence, including approaching the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The commission denied him amnesty and he has consistently been seeking to be released from prison by being placed on parole, every time challenging any decision to not grant him parole.
“The SACP wants the truth to be fully disclosed. The TRC's decision to not grant Walus amnesty should not be taken lightly or undermined. The severity that the court sought when sentencing him should not be truncated either, especially when it is clear that justice has not served its course. Walus remains an unrepentant assassin whose intent through the assassination was to plunge South Africa into war, consequently with more bloodshed. He must not be granted parole,” Mashilo said.