South African born Cornelia De Wet was charged with possession of explosives and ammunition two years ago. After enduring almost two years behind bars, De Wet was released on bail. The court proceedings got off to a rough start when the entire court had to be vacated to allow the bomb squad to search the buildings for suspected bombs. According to De Wet because her case is associated with far-right wingers, there was that assumption that there was a possibility of retaliation. The Guardian Liberty Voice had the opportunity to interview Cornelia De Wet following her return to court on June 19.
The case continued after it was confirmed that there were no bombs. The prosecuting team mentioned they would call members of the South African HAWKS (a specialized unit of the National Prosecuting Authority), specialists in explosives and other people who will prove to the court that De Wet was guilty in planning to use the weapons and explosives to undermine the current government. De Wet is officially charged with unlawful possession of explosives and ammunition.
During the court hearing, the proceedings were heard in two different languages. A considerable frustration during the court proceedings was the inability to translate the proceedings in real-time. The judge had to translate testimony for the defense team because a translator was not available. Under normal circumstances, both the accused and witnesses have the right to a state represented translator.
An explosives expert, Colbette Kuhn, was called to testify on the factual findings of the explosives and, during proceedings, it was stated that no laboratory tests were concluded to confirm the authentic details. It was further stated that the explosives described as dangerous were destroyed by placing them into a hole in the ground and connected to another explosive to destroy them. There were questions raised why other explosives were used to destroy the evidence. Kuhn was asked to give another example of how to destroy explosives and replied that if hit with a hammer it would destroy the explosives. The defense queried why she stated it was dangerous, when the use of a hammer would destroy the explosives.
South African De Wet since the beginning of the trial two years ago has been granted at least eight different state legal representatives to assist with her defense. De Wet said she had a communication problem with her counsel and often experienced difficulty contacting them to talk about the approach of her defense. Telephone calls, emails and SMS’s were sent, but De Wet did not get a response. The lack of interest caused De Wet to become emotionally strained and weary from the effort to get a free and fair trial.
During the court proceedings, her defense refuted the claim that she was not a police informant and was being framed by her detractors, much to the surprise of De Wet, who was not expecting any form of defense. De Wet is in possession of an email from one of her perpetrators stating that it was never their intention to frame her for crimes not committed.
The trial, which is expected to be a long and demanding hearing, was postponed until October 2. The postponement has given De Wet a new opportunity to seek private legal help with the help of family members and friends who have offered financial assistance. While seeking the services of an attorney who will take a stake in her defense, De Wet considers the few extra months as a blessing to regain her composure and seek closure on the charges brought against her, but Cornelia De Wet remains an embattled South African political prisoner facing a long ordeal to prove her innocence of the charges against her.
By Laura Oneale
Personal Interview with Cornelia De Wet, from Middleburg, South Africa
South African Political Prisoner Cornelia De Wet Back in Court