Shaik and Lawyers Argue Against TV Coverage
Wendy Jasson Da Costa, Ben Maclennan
Lawyers for the State and Schabir Shaik have been arguing against allowing e.tv to broadcast live his fraud and corruption trial which started in the Durban High Court on Monday.
Guido Penzhorn argued for the State that "if it turns out that the trial was unfair then that is irrevocable damage".
Penzhorn said a number of State witnesses had already showed reluctance to testify because of intimidation, and a live broadcast would just add to that.
He said it was not right to replay embarrassing moments and have people gloat over a witness's discomfort. Shaik's lawyer Nirmal Singh argued that it was a matter of policy, not a constitutional issue, whether to allow a live broadcast.
A secondary issue was if a broadcast was allowed what the guidelines would be.
He said that media "does not have any rights greater than ordinary members of the public".
Singh said if the demeanour of a witness was affected the court would not attach as much weight to that person's evidence.
He said an accused has a right to a fair trial in front of an ordinary court and it would not be a fair trial if an accused was not only forced to face his accusers and the charges against him, but have proceedings "ventilated through the media" on a wide scale.
At the start of proceedings the leader of the prosecution team, Billy Downer, successfully asked that charges against arms company Thint be withdrawn under an agreement with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
He also asked that the criminal matter against Shaik, who faces two counts of corruption and one of fraud, stand down to Wednesday to allow the hearing of e.tv's live-broadcast application.
Judge Hillary Squires granted both requests and extended Shaik's R1 000 bail to the end of the trial.
He dismissed a bid by the SABC to join in the e.tv application, saying it seemed the public broadcaster was bringing in a different issue by seeking permission for radio broadcasts as well.
The NPA agreed in April to drop the charges against Thint in return for confirmation from its director Alain Thetard that he was the author of a document that allegedly records a bribe offer to Deputy President Jacob Zuma.
Thetard confirmed his authorship but said the documents merely contained rough notes that had nothing to do with a bribe.
In August Thetard applied to the Pietermaritzburg High Court to force the NPA to withdraw charges immediately, but was unsuccessful.
Shaik is accused of colluding with Thint's parent company in France to pay Zuma R500 000 a year for protection against a probe into arms deal irregularities.
Shaik's Nkobi group of companies has a shared interest with Thint in a multi-million rand tender awarded in the arms deal corvette programme.
Thetard has refused to testify in the Shaik trial.
With acknowledgements to Wendy Jasson Da Costa, Ben Maclennan and Sapa.