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Zuma loses plea to remove prosecutor, corruption trial to start in April

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South Africa

A South African court on Tuesday rejected an application by former President Jacob Zuma to have the attorney general dismiss his corruption trial in connection with a 1999 arms deal with five European companies.

Zuma had asked that the prosecutor, Billy Downer, be removed from the case, saying he was neither independent nor impartial. He accused Downer of leaking his medical records to the media.

But a judge, Piet Koen, who sits in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate's Court in the southeast of the country, told a hearing attended by Zuma that he was "not persuaded that Mr Downer is not fit to prosecute or should no longer be a prosecutor.

"As it stands, it has not been proven that Mr. Zuma's rights to a constitutionally fair trial have been impaired, or that there is a real possibility that his rights will be impaired," he continued.

He therefore gave Zuma a date of April 11, 2022 for the resumption of this long trial. 

Zuma, who was vice-president at the time, is accused of taking bribes from the French company Thales, and is facing 16 counts of fraud, corruption and racketeering. The trial began in May after years of postponements and delays.

The 79-year-old former South African head of state was released from prison in September due to health problems while serving a 15-month sentence for stubbornly refusing to appear before a commission investigating state corruption under his presidency (2009-2018).


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