Tuesday, December 06, 2005

· BBC News 27 January 2005
· Guardian UK Crime & Punishment 14 October 2004
· Herald Express Newspaper 1 September 2005
· Edit-Me

Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August, 2003, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
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A long wait for justice
By Jon Silverman Home affairs analyst
Waiting for the wheels of justice to roll
Six years is a serious jail sentence, but it sounds incredible for a man who has not even had a trial, let alone been found guilty. So how is Manfred Zachel coping?
The US marine, Toby Studebaker, was flown to Britain from Germany exactly five weeks after his arrest on charges involving a 12-year-old British schoolgirl whom he allegedly met in an internet chatroom.
Because he did not contest his extradition, the transfer from one country to another was dealt with in double-quick time. Unlike that of a German citizen, Manfred Zachel, who was arrested in the UK almost six years ago on an arrest warrant issued by South Africa and is still languishing in Brixton prison.
Apart from terrorist suspects, Mr Zachel probably holds the current record for the longest-serving extradition detainee in Britain.
Wheelchair-bound
It is difficult to pinpoint who is to blame for his plight. Admittedly, it took three years, until July 2000, for the home secretary to complete consideration of South Africa's request and decide he should stand trial on charges of conspiracy to defraud and forge, and sexual assault on a boy under 16.
Paperwork slows the extradition process down immensely
Implementation of the extradition order was delayed when Mr Zachel began and then abandoned a legal challenge. But that was two years ago and he remains in his Brixton cell.
On first meeting, he cuts a sorry figure. He is 67 and confined to a wheelchair and says he hasn't been in the open air for a year. The pallor of his skin and the yellowness of his eyes are not signs of a man in rude health - though, like the reasons for his lengthy incarceration, the truth of his physical condition is not easy to pin down.
A doctor recommended by the German embassy in London examined him in Brixton in the autumn and diagnosed angina, a possible brain tumour and an untreated cataract.
She wrote: "In my professional opinion, Mr Zachel is not fit to remain in prison. He needs to be thoroughly examined and treated in hospital. it is highly unlikely that he will ever be able to live independently."
Yet, Mr Zachel has not been examined in hospital. In December 2002, South Africa asked for a second opinion and a consultant physician came to see him and concluded that he was exaggerating some of his symptoms.

I had a heart attack recently - but unfortunately, it wasn't bad enough to kill me
Manfred Zachel

The physician found "no evidence of sinister underlying pathology that would warrant curtailing the legal process". Mr Zachel shakes his head sadly at this and says: " I have frequent bouts of unconsciousness and sometimes I can't remember what I did yesterday. I had a heart attack recently - but unfortunately, it wasn't bad enough to kill me. "
The Home Office concedes that it is highly unusual for three years to elapse between an extradition order being signed by the home secretary and it being enforced.
No official explanation has been given for the delay though it seems that the government has been seeking assurances about the conditions in which Mr Zachel would be held in prison in South Africa awaiting trial.

The organisation Fair Trials Abroad, which believes Mr Zachel's continued detention is "a disgrace" says that each time a question is put to the South African authorities, they take several months to respond.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice in Johannesburg said: "Any suggestion that we have delayed the process is simply incorrect."

As to the substance of the case against Manfred Zachel, it may be significant that the sexual assault charge was not part of the original indictment and that the father of the boy, who was the alleged victim, believes it to be false.

Moreover, a former South African intelligence service official has signed an affidavit stating that the "accusations against Mr Zachel are malicious" and intended to prevent him exposing high-level financial corruption.

Manfred Zachel believes he won't survive long enough to have his day in court.
Whether he's a realist or a fantasist remains to be seen.
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*posted by Crimefighter
*The wise are not wise because they make no mistakes.
** They are wise because they correct their mistakes as soon as they recognize them.

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