JOHANNESBURG (AP) — An angry mob has assaulted a lawyer at a South African courthouse where he represented two men accused of murdering a young girl.
Lawyer Nico du Plessis said on Tuesday that he was dragged through the security gate of a courthouse in Tonga, east of Johannesburg, during the attack last week. In the street, du Plessis said, people beat and kicked him until a police officer intervened.
“Everybody was shouting, ‘Kill him! Kill him!'” du Plessis said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. The police officer, he said, “managed to get me out of the grip of those people. We just ran back into court.”
News24, a South African media outlet, posted video on its website that shows du Plessis, dressed in a suit and lying on the ground as people mill around. One man is pulling on his tie. The lawyer said he suffered multiple bruises.
Another hearing in the case of the suspected murderers, who want to apply for bail, is scheduled for Wednesday.
Fearing for his safety, du Plessis asked authorities to move the hearing to another venue. The case was previously postponed because of concerns about public anger over the crime, and legal aid workers stopped representing three other suspects in the case because they were afraid, du Plessis said.
The lawyer said the suspects have a constitutional right to a legal defense.
“Security was totally insufficient” at the courthouse, du Plessis said.
In South Africa, there are periodic cases of mobs attacking and even killing suspected criminals, possibly believing the suspects will get lenient treatment and be back on the streets soon even if they are arrested and prosecuted. It is rare for a crowd to attack a lawyer defending suspected criminals.
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CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press
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