[JURIST] Former INTERPOL [official website] president and South African police chief Jackie Selebi [official profile; JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty [plea explanation, PDF] to corruption charges Monday at the start of his trial in the Johannesburg High Court. Selebi is charged [JURIST report] with receiving $170,000 in bribes from convicted drug smuggler Glenn Agliotti [Guardian profile], who was suspected of killing South African mining magnate Brett Kebble. Selebi claims that charges against him were fabricated in retaliation for his corruption investigation of two members of the South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) [official website], including Vusi Pikoli. Then-president Kgalema Motlanthe fired Pikoli from the NPA in part for his decision to prosecute Selebi. The government denied [Eyewitness News report] Selebi's allegations and announced [Independent report] that it will call several witnesses against Selebi, including Agliotti. The trial is expected to last about five weeks.
Selebi was a close political ally of South African President Thabo Mbeki [official profile], and the South African government extended [BBC report] Selebi's contract for an additional year in June 2008, around the time a court established [JURIST report] Selebi's trial date. Selebi was suspended from his police post and forced to resign as INTERPOL president after the NPA announced the impending charges [JURIST reports]. The NPA has alleged that Selebi ignored Agliotti's drug trafficking and warned Agliotti that he had been identified in a murder investigation.