South African army man imprisoned in Kuwait since 2008

02 July 2017 - 17:08
By Petru Saal
Image: Supplied by Dawid Lotter GARETH RUTHERFORD

The power of friendship should never be under-estimated as you never know when you might need a helping hand.

Such is the case of SANDF military veteran Gareth Rutherford who is serving a life sentence in Kuwait for drug trafficking – a charge he vehemently denies.

His military friends have rallied behind him in an attempt to get him freed or his sentence commuted.

Rutherford runs his blog from the Kuwait Central Prison where he explained his version of events on the fateful day he was arrested.

On his way to the airport to catch a flight to Cape Town from Kuwait on 18 September 2008 - a trip he had been looking forward to - he was asked to make a detour into the city to pick up a package for a friend.

Rutherford did not think much of it. He stopped at a tyre shop and a group of men loaded the vehicle he was travelling in with tyres. When he left the tyre shop‚ he drove straight into what he believes was a trap.

Law enforcement officials cornered him. They searched his vehicle and found drugs hidden inside the tyres.

Rutherford explains that his lawyer hardly ever pitched up for court dates and that he didn’t have an interpreter during court proceedings‚ which adversely affected him. In the end he was made to sign a confession which was written in Arabic and not translated to him.

Dawid Lotter‚ a military friend‚ is at his wits’ end in his attempts to try to save Rutherford but he refuses to give up until he is reunited with his friend.

“He would never do the thing that they are accusing him of. He is not that kind of person” said Lotter.

Lotter has set up an online petition that will hopefully get his friend’s sentence mitigated. Rutherford’s initial sentence was a death sentence but was later changed to a life sentence.

Lotter explains that the two met in 1980 during Operation Sceptic. Rutherford was a lance corporal and Lotter a captain.

During this same operation‚ Rutherford was awarded a medal for the bravery he displayed during the war.

“In operation sceptic in 1980 he was awarded the highest order for his bravery. In the battlefield while everything was burning and people dying‚ Gareth was running around in the midst of the chaos to rescue his comrades.”

But a never die attitude of a true soldier has seen Lotter refusing to give up on his friend who is stuck in the Middle East.

Lotter has called on the help of his fellow army men that served with him and Rutherford to sign the petition and spread the word on it.

Lotter aims to get 5‚000 signatures on the petition so that he can take it to the Emir in Kuwait and explain that Rutherford has been wrongly sentenced for a charge of a doubtful nature. The petition currently has 1‚799 signatures.

- TimesLIVE