Parole for former S. African top cop stirs outcry

AP News
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Posted: Jul 25, 2012 1:50 PM
Parole for former S. African top cop stirs outcry

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The medical parole granted to a convicted former South African police chief has led to public outcry against what many call favoritism on part of the governing party.

The country's main opposition party urged the government on Wednesday to reveal who approved the parole for Jackie Selebi and how the decision was made.

The Democratic Alliance said in its statement "it is essential that the government comes entirely clean about how the decision ... was made."

Selebi was sentenced to 15 years in prison on corruption charges in 2010, with prosecutors saying he went on shopping sprees with drug dealers in exchange for sharing police information with them.

Officials say the 62-year-old is suffering from kidney failure, diabetes and suspected cancer, and he was granted parole on health grounds Friday.

In a country ripe with corruption, granting medical parole is a contested issue often leading to accusations of favoritism on part of the governing ANC party and President Jacob Zuma.

The decision to release the ANC veteran indeed raised eyebrows across the country, and was widely criticized by local media.

"The fact that Selebi has only served 229 days of a 15-year sentence after being convicted of corruption ... has led to speculation that the ANC has, once again, circumvented the rules to accommodate a comrade," a Monday editorial in Times Live newspaper read.

But Selebi's lawyer Wynanda Coetzee maintains he is in serious condition. "He is a very ill man," she said.

The ANC applauded Selebi's release and wished him "recovery and stable health as he is confronted by ill-health."

Correctional Services spokesman James Smalberger said Selebi is allowed to leave his house in Pretoria for two hours every weekday and for six hours on weekends under his parole conditions.

Selebi won't be under constant surveillance, but a police official will visit him at least once a week without advance notice, he said. "I want to emphasize at least once," Smalberger added.

The Democratic Alliance maintained that Selebi's case again demonstrated the "huge degree of public cynicism" regarding medical parole in South Africa.

A previous case that led many to question the constitutionality of medical parole was the release of Schabir Shaik, President Zuma's former financial adviser of.

Shaik was convicted of fraud and corruption in 2005, but was granted medical parole in 2009 after serving 28 months of his 15-year prison term.

Three years after he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, Shaik is still alive. According to local media reports, he has been spotted playing golf on several occasions.

However, under South African law, once medical parole is granted, the improvement of the parolee's medical condition is no ground for re-incarceration.