Isis 'loyalists' may face child pornography charges
Alleged loyalists of terror group Isis, accused of the kidnapping and bloody slaying of British-born Cape Town botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders, may now face child pornography charges.
The revelation came as the trio — Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio, his wife Fatima Patel and their boarder Ahmad “Bazooka” Mussa — appeared before the Verulam magistrate’s court on Wednesday.
Specialist state advocate Adele Barnard said that the forensic examination of “digital devices” seized from the three revealed sexually explicit images involving children.
“There was sexually explicit material involving children recovered from the devices that the state seized from the accused and we intend adding further charges in terms of the Films and Publications Act,” she said.
The three already face charges of kidnapping, theft and murder, as well as those relating to the contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorists and Related Activities Act by hoisting an Isis flag.
The elderly botanists are understood to have been murdered in February while they toured KwaZulu-Natal. Their bodies were dumped in the Tugela River.
The mortal remains of Saunders couple were identified using DNA profiling in the months after their disappearance.
Barnard had brought an application for a postponement while the state prepares a provisional indictment and secures the services of a UK-based expert witness, Dr Florence Gaub.
“I can inform the court that the investigations in this matter have been moving forward. Requests to governments of Somalia and the Netherlands under the Mutual Legal Assistance Act have been finalised and I am waiting on content from those countries,” she added.
“Depending on the content there may be further charges added,” Barnard said.
Patel‚ Del Vecchio and Mussa are alleged to have siphoned R700‚000 from the elderly couple’s bank accounts and jewellery‚ electronics and camping gear was purchased using stolen credit cards .
What happened to the couple in their final days remains shrouded in mystery, with some insight previously placed before the court in an affidavit submitted by the investigating officer.
“On February 9 there are discussions of preparing to kill the kuffar [non-believer] and abduct their allies‚ to destroy infrastructure and to put fear in to the heart of the kuffar.”
“On February 10‚ Del Vecchio had mentioned to Patel and Bazooka that there is an elderly couple in the forest‚ that it is a ‘good hunt’ and that they had equipment‚” the papers read.
Attorney Mondli Mthethwa, for the trio, said that his clients had been in custody since their arrest in February, with the conclusion of their trial still long in the distance.
“We are objecting to any further postponements in this matter. Their time in custody will exceed a year and the time [they have] spent in custody should be considered a new fact and I am instructed to bring bail applications for all three of the accused,” he said.
Del Vecchio was moved from the Westville Prison to the Ebongweni maximum security prison in Kokstad in March after prison officials claimed they had uncovered a plot which would jeopardise the facility.
From the dock, he claimed he had been tortured by prison officials because he was “a terrorist”.
Magistrate Irfan Khalil granted the state’s request for a postponement. The three will return to court on May 7.