Former president Jacob Zuma has set his sights on Judge Piet Koen presiding on his arms deal corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering case before the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KwaZulu-Natal.
According to News24, Zuma’s lawyers want Koen to recuse himself from his trial due to assumptions that he thought prosecutor Billy Downer was “innocent of the crimes” Zuma has accused him and journalist Karyn Maughan of.
First Downer, now Koen
His lawyers reportedly argue in court papers “it would thus be a grave error for [Koen] not to recuse himself,” and further contended that “it is in the interest of justice that [Koen] must recuse himself from any further participation in the trial of Mr Zuma”.
Zuma has already lodged proceedings to have Downer, the prosecutor in his trial, to recuse himself from the trial and pursuing a private prosecution on him and Maughan.
“It appears that Honourable Justice Koen’s legitimate concerns about the possibility of bias is informed by his own strong views of the State’s case against Mr Zuma which is reflected in how he was entirely dismissive of the complaint of State conduct in this case,” the lawyers were quoted as saying in court papers.
The former president claims Downer criminally violated the National Prosecuting Authority Act by allowing court papers, containing a note from one of his military doctors, to be provided to Maughan.
Koen last month reportedly invited the parties in the Zuma trial to make submissions on his potential recusal, after Zuma’s lawyers asked him to decide on whether Downer should continue participating in the trial in light of the private prosecution against him and Maughan.
The judge had pointed out that he had previously addressed Zuma’s criminal complaint against Downer in his ruling on his “special plea” application, where he dismissed the 14 grounds upon which Zuma contended Downer lacked the “title” to prosecute him.
Zuma argues that his private medical information was “leaked” by Downer, though he failed to claim confidentiality when his lawyers filed the disputed letter in court, making it a public document.
Koen found that the letter was submitted to Downer “without any specific restrictions as regards confidentiality” and that the letter was vague and general, and did not disclose anything that could be said to amount to “an actionable violation of Mr Zuma’s rights”.
Zuma is accused of receiving over R4 million in bribes from his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, in exchange for influence to further Shaik’s business interests.
He also accused of accepting a R500 000-a-year bribe from French arms company Thales, in exchange for his “political protection” from a potential investigation into multibillion-rand arms deal.
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Compiled by Sipho Mabena.