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UK journo's trial date set

By unknown | Jul 08, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

BRITISH journalist Simon Wright is to go on trial in Cape Town this weekend - and the state has brought its big guns to bear on him.

Wright, who works for the Sunday Mirror, was arrested after he interviewed a fan who intruded into the English soccer team's dressing room after a match in Cape Town.

It emerged yesterday that when Wright made another brief appearance in the city's special World Cup court, that veteran prosecutor Billy Downer had been assigned to the case.

Downer, a senior counsel, led the team that secured the corruption conviction of Schabir Shaik, and sought unsuccessfully to prosecute President Jacob Zuma on similar charges.

He is a deputy director of public prosecutions in Western Cape.

Downer told magistrate Joe Magele yesterday that the last time the case was in court, it had been postponed for further investigations and for Wright's legal team to make representations to prosecutors on the withdrawal of charges.

The investigations were now complete, and the Western Cape director of public prosecutions had decided "not to accede" to the representations.

"Consequently the matter is now ready for trial," Downer said.

He said the trial had been set down for Saturday and Sunday - the day of the World Cup final.

But because the special court ran until 11pm, the case might be dealt with on the first day.

According to the docket, Wright faces charges of "defeating or obstructing the administration of justice" and contravening the Immigration Act - a charge related to allegedly false information in a hotel register.

Wright's attorney William Booth, who was flanked in court by Sunday Mirror lawyer Paul Motram, told the magistrate much had been said about an alleged conspiracy between Wright and the soccer fan Pavlos Joseph.

It had been said they had somehow colluded to try to place the security of Fifa or South African authorities "under scrutiny".

Booth said he wanted to record publicly that there was no charge of conspiracy or collusion between the two.

He repeated this outside the courtroom, after Magele had postponed the case to 9am on Saturday.

Wright, who is on bail of R3000, had earlier surrendered his passport to the police.

Joseph last week paid a R750 admission of guilt fine for a contravention of the World Cup's special Fifa legislation, for being in a designated area without accreditation. - Sapa


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