As the Boeremag trial enters its 7th year next month, some of the accused are calling on the Geneva Convention to be tried as prisoners of war in The Hague and not as terrorists.
A total of 21 men are facing numerous charges, including treason, terrorism, sabotage, murder, causing explosions, illegal possession of arms and ammunition, and attempted murder.
While at the stand in Pretoria High Court last week, one of the accused, Dr. Johan “Lets” Pretorius, who has been testifying since March 10th, refused the state prosecutor’s questions on the international legal grounds that he was part of a “freedom struggle.”
Legal representatives for his sons, brothers Cobus and Wilhelm Pretorius, indicated in the court that they would follow the same route.
The brothers, who are among the 13 who are being held in C-Max Prison, hoped that if declared prisoners of war, they would be freed as “the war is over”, their father, Dr Lets Pretorius, on trial with them, said.
Judge Eben Jordaan recessed the court and will consider the application Wednesday.
The Geneva Convention, which South Africa is a signatory, provides for the rights of prisoners of war. Some of the other men on trial are considering joining the brothers in their application.
Earlier in the trial, brothers Johan and Wilhelm Pretorius changed legal representatives and made written confessions to the bombings, claiming they declared “war” against South Africa.
Although their part in the various “legitimate military operations” differed, both indicated that they “at least knew of it.”
According to the confession they wrote, they were also involved in the establishment of a “base” in Gauteng, which would be required in the “anarchy” that would come when the “Night of Long Knives” would break loose.
Willhelm was also involved in the writing of the “blue letters” sent to the ANC and the South African president, which claimed the land for the “Boerevolk” and must be immediately given back to them.
“We formally declared war” when the requests are ignored, Pretorius said.
De Boer Krygsgevange-committee has already issued a declaration saying: “It was not brandy-and-Coke-talks around a campfire, but professionals who have left everything in the quest for the Boer nation’s self-realized.”
The Boeremag trial started on May 19, 2003, with 23 accused. One pleaded guilty and is already out on parole after serving his jail term. Another accused, Herman Scheepers, died while awaiting trial.
The case record runs more than 44,200 pages and has cost the South African government more than US$18 million. It is the longest-running trial in the history of South Africa.
Analysts expect the trial to end sometime next year. The State closed its case more than two years ago and only four of the 21 accused still have to take the stand.