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Fri Oct 24 13:23:50 SAST 2014

Blair 'safe from arrest'

TJ STRYDOM | 30 August, 2012 00:27
File photo of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Image by: TOBY MELVILLE / REUTERS

Every precaution is being taken to ensure Tony Blair's appearance in Sandton today is not marred by a "security incident".

Herschel Mayers, chief executive of Discovery Life, said yesterday that the former British Prime Minister will have his own protection service and that additional security will be provided.

Protesters have threatened to place Blair under citizen's arrest when he speaks at the Sandton Convention Centre.

Abdul Razak Noorbhai, one of the protest organisers, said Blair's involvement in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 made him a war criminal.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was also set to speak at the summit, withdrew two days ago after calls from trade unions and religious groups that he should refrain from sharing a platform with Blair.

"Hip-hip-hooray to that!" said Noorbhai.

Mayers said Tutu has since been replaced in the line-up by fitness guru Tim Noakes.

The chances of someone inside the venue performing a "citizen's arrest" on Blair - as suggested on the website www.arrestblair.org - is just about impossible, according to Mayers.

Discovery Invest's Leadership Summit is a tightly stage-managed affair with the speakers being quite a distance from the attendees, leaving little chance of someone sneaking up on Blair, putting a hand on his shoulder and saying (as suggested on the website): "Mr Blair, this is a citizens' arrest for a crime against peace, namely your decision to launch an unprovoked war against Iraq.

"I am inviting you to accompany me to a police station to answer the charge."

An urgent application for an arrest warrant for Blair was also lodged earlier this week with the National Prosecuting Authority by the Society for the Protection of the Constitution, according to an SMS sent out to those taking part in the protest.

The group wants Blair to appear in front of the International Criminal Court.

British High Commission spokesman Gary Benham yesterday said it would be inappropriate to comment on Blair's appearance at the summit as "his visit is entirely a private one".

Blair is believed to be one of the best-paid public speakers in the world and Mayers confirmed that he is being paid his regular fee.

In 2009, the Daily Mail reported Blair pocketed £6000 a minute on the international lecture circuit.

Mayers said that not all of the speakers charged the organisers, but hinted that Tutu had been financially rewarded.

Asked whether Discovery would claim the appearance fee back from Tutu, Mayers said they were still considering the matter.

"We would never sue him, of course," he said.

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