The admissions were made on Thursday on the first day of the trial of brother and sister‚ Ibrahim and Fatima Patel‚ who were arrested for terrorism last year along with identical twins‚ Brandon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie.
The Patel siblings are on trial in the Kagiso Magistrate’s Court. They were arrested in July last year in an anti-terrorism police raid on their Azaadville home on the West Rand.
The Thulsies‚ who will return to court in April‚ were arrested when police raided their Johannesburg homes in the same operation.
They stand accused of plotting to attack British‚ US and Jewish interests in South Africa.
All four were arrested under the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrosim and Related Activities Act‚ but only the Thulsies have been charged with terrorism.
Ibrahim Patel was charged under the Explosives Act for being in possession of a stun grenade. Fatima was charged under the Firearms Control Act for being in possession 20 rounds of ammunition.
Lawyers for the Patel siblings were particularly critical of their handling of the investigation during Thursday’s court proceedings. Police ballistics expert Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Weiderman admitted he destroyed the stun grenade without telling prosecutors and defence lawyers.
Warrant Officer Jacobus Venter told the court he had flouted certain procedures during the search and seizure operation and admitted he occasionally “bent the rules” while investigating cases.
The admission was made when he was questioned by the Patel’s lawyer Nadeem Mohamed over why the Patels had not been read their rights and why he had failed to read the search and seizure and arrest warrants before conducting the operation.
Venter said he had not read the warrant because a policeman had told him what was in it and that another policeman would answer the court as to who if anyone had read the Patels their rights.
Pressed on whether the court should be told of other operational procedure breaches‚ Venter declined to answer. Weidermann admitted that he had destroyed the stun grenade.
“There is only a certain time which we can keep such evidence‚” he told the Patels’ other lawyer‚ James Grant.
“You destroyed evidence. The grenade was destroyed before the defence and prosecutor could examine it‚ is that not true?” asked Grant.
Venter said it was his choice and that the decision was based on the condition of the grenade.
“I deemed it dangerous.”
Grant told him his explanation was extraordinary‚ “especially as the State should have made the evidence available”.
“The only one who will now know whether this device was ‘live’ is you.”
Weidermann said when it was destroyed‚ it had exploded.
The defence team also questioned whether stun grenades fall under the Explosives Act..
“They are explosives … they have gunpowder and percussion caps in them‚” Weirdermann replied.
Grant responded that in photographs of the stun grenade the word explosive could not be seen written on it.
“That device was sitting on his father’s bookshelf in his prayer room for years. Do you know what his intention for it was? Do you know whether he wanted to hurt someone or damage property?”
Weidermann said he didn’t as his job was only to seize the evidence.
The trial proceeds on April 20.
– TMG Digital/The Times