Nigerian televangelist Timothy Omotoso’s lawyer Peter Daubermann said he fears for his life after he put up a fight for his client in court last week.
Daubermann was “attacked” as he left Port Elizabeth High Court last week after an outrage on social media over his line of questioning of Cheryl Zondi, who testified that Omotoso raped her multiple times during her time in the ministry.
Omotoso, 60, faces charges of rape and alleged human trafficking of more than 30 girls.
Daubermann labelled the incident in which he had water thrown at him as he left court as an “attack on the justice system”, adding that he fears for his safety and has had to make security arrangements for himself.
“Legal representation is a pillar of the justice system. Any person, no matter how unpopular they are and how unpopular their cause is, or any of the crimes of which they are charged, is entitled to legal representation.
“Once you start interfering with that right it could lead to the collapse of the entire system,” he said.
“The accused has the right to be represented by whoever he wants and the accused will feel aggrieved if the person tasked to represent him has been put under severe stress of fear of being attacked.
“Remember, the court is mindful of all the circumstances in the courtroom. But I don’t think that has any effect on the accused’s rights unless where the attorney says I’m no longer going to that court because I fear for my life.
“Then the accused’s rights will be affected in the sense that he won’t have legal representation,” he said.
“It’s an attack on the judicial system to threaten a legal representative and I’m surprised that nobody has said anything about it thus far. It’s interference with the justice system and the process.
“Imagine if I was to walk away, what would happen then,” he said.
Daubermann expressed concern over the security of his clients, accused number 2 and 3, saying he would ask the court to ensure their safety.
Joburg-based human rights lawyer advocate Mahlodi Sam Muofhe said while he understood the outrage of the community, he cautioned against the attack on lawyers.
“As a caution, it is important to support victims in such situations but it is totally wrong to attack the lawyer.
“And, indeed, members of the community, instead of attacking him they could have simply reported him to the bar council or even reported him to the cops for intimidating the witness,” he said.
Muofhe added that the attack on Daubermann is not unique as other lawyers have been attacked in the past, but he also said that the attacks are not common.
“It’s not as if this is unique but it has to be generally criticised at all costs. It’s not a common occurrence lawyers being lawyers understand that we have to represent our clients whichever way.
“I think objectively we also have to understand the sensitivity of the cases we are involved in.
“In this case, this guy’s right to legal representation is not yet affected because his lawyer is still acting for him,” he said.
Daubermann, in cross-examination, asked Zondi by how many centimetres the accused had penetrated her - a question many found to be graphic and intrusive, hence the outrage.
Muofhe urged people to understand that the line of questioning sometimes borders on infringing on the right(s) of the victim.
“I mean, how dare does he ask how deep he (Omotoso) penetrated her,” he said, adding that it is in the interest of the bar and law society to sanction its members.
However, Ian Green, chairman of the Johannesburg Bar Council, said that the system has checks and balances built in.
“The process has a series of checks and balances built in. It’s designed to ensure ethical questioning and to ensure that the victim is not subjected to unfair cross-examination.
“The first check is that a judge will intervene and prevent improper questioning, the second is that the prosecution is entitled to raise an objection,” Green said.
The Sunday Independent