Trial for S. Africa's Botha delayed until June 1
April 16, 1998
Web posted at: 1:55 p.m. EDT (1755 GMT)
GEORGE, South Africa (CNN) --
The trial of apartheid-era
South African President P.W. Botha, charged with contempt for
ignoring a subpoena to appear before the country's Truth and
Reconciliation Commission, was postponed Thursday until June
1 to give prosecutors more time to gather evidence.
Prosecutors asked for the delay so documents could be
presented to defense lawyers. The documents indicate that the
State Security Council Botha headed authorized the killing of
The postponement was granted against the wishes of Botha.
One of his attorneys, Lappe Laubscher, told the court that
the delay was "totally unacceptable because it will result in
untested allegations being sent out into the world."
Botha, who is 82, was overheard telling Laubscher that he
thought the case should proceed. "This case was set down for
four days. Come, let's go on," Botha said.
The postponement followed the testimony of truth commission
Executive Secretary Paul van Zyl, who said the panel wanted
Botha to appear to answer charges that his government
knowingly committed human rights abuses in its efforts to
The commission wants to establish the chain of command for
the ruthless crackdown by police and soldiers believed to
have killed, detained and tortured thousands of people.
Botha headed South Africa from 1978 to 1989. He has declined
to talk to reporters.
"We know that justice delayed is justice denied, but under
the circumstances, I have no option but to postpone,"
Magistrate Victor Lugaju said.
The case was originally scheduled to end Friday, but delays
resulting from last-minute talks between Botha and the
commission resulted in the court running out of time.
The court said the next available slot was from June 1 to
June 5 and the case would resume then.
If convicted of contempt, Botha could be sentenced to two
years in prison and required to pay a fine.
Reuters contributed to this report.