Leila Samodien

THE state advocate who prosecuted disgraced former police chief Jackie Selebi has won a prestigious international award for his work on the case.

Gerrie Nel is set to be awarded the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) Special Achievement Award, one the highest accolades for a prosecutor.

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Billy Downer SC said it was a very special award, which the IAP was also considering awarding to one or two other candidates, including the prosecutor who took on Liberian tyrant Charles Taylor.

Selebi, who at the time of the case was also the head of Interpol, was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for corruption.

Nel is expected to collect the award in Bangkok, Thailand, in October.

This comes after he won a local award – the Society of State Advocates’ prosecutor of the year – last month, also for the Selebi case.

He was nominated for the award because the case was identified as a matter of national and international importance for prosecutors. He had stood steadfast, maintained independence and acted with integrity in the face of a number of difficulties, including personal and professional obstacles.

More than four years ago, Nel, the former Gauteng head of the Scorpions, was arrested on several charges, including fraud, defeating the ends of justice and perjury.

A large contingent of armed policemen had barged into his Pretoria home and handcuffed him in front of his family. The charges, however, were withdrawn just a few weeks later.

Nel acknowledged that he had been under a lot of pressure for the entire duration of the case, but refused to take sole credit for the victory.

“A prosecutor can’t win an award like this on their own. It’s a team of investigators and prosecutors that took on a very difficult matter,” he said.

“There was a lot of pressure not only on me, but the whole team.”