Friday, July 25, 2008

Ex-cop dumped in jail cell to force 'confession'

A hunting trip turned into a nightmare for a former police officer, Sakkie van der Mescht, 37 when he was kept in a crowded cell for a weekend on trumped up 'crimen injuria' charges.

Note: Crimen Injuria (in South Africa) is the ‘crime’ of deliberately injuring another person's dignity, especially by use of racial insults or obscene language. That’s right, folks, calling someone an obscene name in South Africa will land you in jail.

He was stripped naked and assaulted repeatedly by the other cell occupants. He was stabbed in the head with a knife and other sharp objects. They then tried to rape him but he fought them off.

A knife was held to his genitals while the men threatened to cut them off.

After this, he was made to sit on the cold cell floor for a long time before his clothes were given back to him, said Van der Mescht on Monday.

Van der Mescht, a father of two, did not eat or drink anything for the whole weekend: his cellmates apparently ejaculated into the water that was offered to him.

He said the police visited the cell only once every morning and once every evening.

After he was threatened with another seven days in jail “just like it”, he pleaded guilty on June 30 in Madikwe Magistrate's Court to a charge of crimen injuria.

His lawyer is now appealing against this verdict because it was extracted under extreme duress.

Until March, Van der Mescht had been the police's appointed firearm official in Rustenburg. He works currently as a security manager for a hotel group.

Since his experience at the end of June, nightmares of the experience keep Van der Mescht traumatised. His lawyer, Carl Arnold, said they were waiting on the test results for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections because of the dirty knife that was used on Van der Mescht.

On June 27, Van der Mescht was part of a group who went hunting in the Madikwe Trust area.

He was at their camp when two fellow hunters in a bakkie were stopped by police. They were unable to show the licence of another hunter's firearm that was in the car. After an assurance that someone would go to show them the licence, the police left without taking further action.

Arnold said Van der Mescht and another man drove off after the police with the other hunter's firearm licence and identity document, but they repeatedly ignored him when he tried to show the documents to them.

Van der Mescht and the driver of the bakkie he was in then stopped at a place where a few police vehicles were standing next to the road.

Some of the police officers apparently spotted him and stormed at Van der Mescht. The door of the bakkie was yanked open and he was jerked out by the arm. Van der Mescht said he told them he did not appreciate their actions.

Following that, he was thrown into the back of a police van. They drove around with him for more than an hour before he was taken to Madikwe police station. He said: "I was arrested for crimen injuria and intimidation."

Van der Mescht's wife was rudely chased from the police station when she wanted to see her husband on the Saturday. She was also threatened with arrest.

North West police's Captain Aafje Botma claimed that 'Van der Mescht threatened and swore at the police officer when they were driving next to each other' and that the former police officer 'was taken to a hospital for treatment'.

She also denied that his wife had been kept from visiting him -- and said police 'had visited the cells every hour...' However, Botma was at a loss to answer a question about how a sharp object got into the prisoners' cell.

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