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South Africa appeals court reinstates corruption charges against Zuma

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa [official website] on Monday reinstated [judgment, PDF] charges against political leader Jacob Zuma [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive], overruling the decision of the Pietermaritzburg High Court. The court found that the lower court judge had overstepped his authority when he dismissed [JURIST report] the 16 counts of corruption, fraud, money-laundering, and racketeering against Zuma in September 2008. The lower court found the charges to be procedurally invalid because Zuma was not given the chance to respond to the allegations against him. Zuma also argued that the charges against him were brought for political reasons. The court of appeals found that the lower court judge's theories "were not based on any evidence or allegation. They were instead part of the judge's own conspiracy theory and not one advanced by Mr Zuma." It is expected that Zuma will appeal the charges to the Constitutional Court of South Africa [official website]. It is unlikely that additional action will be taken against Zuma until 2010. The African National Congress (ANC) [official website] released a statement [text] following the ruling that the court's decision will not impact whether it chooses to support Zuma as the party's candidate for president in the upcoming election, which is expected to take place later this year.

Zuma has been a controversial political figure in South Africa for several years. He was ousted [JURIST report] as the country’s deputy president in 2005 after an aide was convicted of corruption. He was also charged with rape, but ultimately acquitted and reinstated [JURIST report] as ANC deputy vice president. In July 2008, the South African Constitutional Court rejected a motion [JURIST report] by Zuma to exclude evidence from the corruption trial. Zuma had argued [JURIST report] that evidence seized in 2005 raids by the Directorate of Special Investigations should be thrown out because the raids violated his rights to privacy and a fair trial. The court upheld the validity of the warrants used in the raids, confirming a November 2007 decision [JURIST report] by the South African Supreme Court of Appeal. He was first charged with corruption in 2005, but those charges were later dismissed [JURIST report] because prosecutors failed to follow proper procedures.

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