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S/Africa: Zuma files acquittal request in graft case

Former South African president Jacob Zuma has filed a complaint at the Pietermaritzburg High Court requesting the removal of prosecutor…

Former South African president Jacob Zuma has filed a complaint at the Pietermaritzburg High Court requesting the removal of prosecutor Billy Downer from his arms deal case, which should be followed by an acquittal from the charges, press reports said on Friday.The prosecution removal request is contained in Zuma’s “officially signed special plea affidavit” submitted in preparation for his trial next week at the court, the reports said.

According to Zuma, Downer should be removed from leading the prosecution due to his bias against him following his support of a political party’s affidavit requesting the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) to successfully reinstate dropped charges against the former leader.

The opposition Democratic Alliance’s request to the NPA, which Downer approved, qualified the latter as unfit and unfair to lead the prosecution of the trial, Zuma complained in the affidavit.

Downer’s removal due to his “lack of independence and impartiality” in the case should, therefore, lead the court to immediately acquit Zuma of all alleged corruption charges, the former leader added.

Zuma argued that the prosecution “had been irreparably tainted and disqualified” to prosecute the case after what he called “the political meddling” in Downer’s siding with the DA, a political party hostile to him.

Responding to the court filing, the NPA said it was studying Zuma’s plea and would respond in court next week. 

The authority added that, at face value, Zuma’s attempt to have Downer removed from the trial looked “like a regurgitation of old issues already rejected by the courts.”

Downer successfully prosecuted Zuma’s former financial advisor, Shabir Shaik, in 2005 in the same arms scandal case.

Shaik, however, was released from prison after serving only three of his 15-year jail term after Zuma pardoned him on medical grounds.

Zuma and French arms dealer, Thales, are facing corruption, racketeering and money laundering charges linked to the arms deal.

They return to court next week on Wednesday to take pleas in the 22-year multi-billion arms deal scandal.

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