Ex-South African leader Zuma’s corruption trial postponed for 3rd time this year

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The corruption trial of former South African President Jacob Zuma was postponed yet again on Monday, the latest in a seemingly endless series of delays in the high-profile case. 

Judge Piet Koen of the Pietermaritzburg High Court pushed the case to Oct. 17, this year’s third postponement after hearings in May and April were also wrapped up without any progress.

The adjournment came as South Africa’s Constitutional Court is still to rule on Zuma’s petition to have state prosecutor Billy Downer taken off the case over claims of bias.

Similar appeals by the ex-president were dismissed by Koen and the Supreme Court of Appeal earlier this year, leaving the Constitutional Court as the final forum where Zuma’s legal team can push for Downer’s removal.

Zuma, 80, was excused from the day’s proceedings and did not appear in court.

Zuma and Thales, a French arms firm, are facing 18 counts of corruption, money laundering, tax evasion and racketeering in connection with a $2.5 billion weapons deal in the late 1990s. Both deny any wrongdoing.

Charges against Zuma were dropped just weeks before he was elected president in 2009.

They were reinstated after he was forced to resign from office in 2018, leading to one of the longest-running legal battles in the country.

Zuma was jailed last July for 15 months after the Constitutional Court found him guilty of contempt for refusing to appear before a judicial commission investigating corruption during his nearly decade-long presidency.

His incarceration led to violent protests and riots that claimed more than 300 lives across South Africa.

He was released on medical parole after just two months, before a court rescinded the “unlawful” parole in December and ruled that he should be returned to prison.

Zuma’s lawyers, however, successfully challenged the ruling and the former South African leader has been serving his prison term under house arrest.​​​​​​​

The judicial inquiry into allegations of corruption during Zuma’s rule presented damning findings about how billions of dollars were plundered from South Africa’s state coffers.

In a period of more than three years, the commission heard testimony from over 300 witnesses detailing how business associates and friends of Zuma, particularly the influential Gupta family, took control of most state operations and finances.