British journalist to face trial in South Africa

THANDISIZWE MGUDLWAAssociated Press Writer

The British tabloid journalist arrested after a fan appeared in the England team’s dressing room after a World Cup game will go on trial this weekend.

Simon Wright of the Sunday Mirror appeared in court Wednesday and will face charges of attempting to defeat the ends of justice and breaching a contravention of the Immigration Act.

Police said Wright was involved in an “orchestrated” attempt to undermine World Cup security after Pavlos Joseph found his way into England’s changing room at Cape Town on June 18. He will face court on Saturday and Sunday.

At the time of Wright’s arrest on June 28, South African national police commissioner Bheki Cele said at a security briefing in the country’s capital Pretoria that the Mirror journalist admitted to harboring and interviewing Pavlos Joseph while police were searching for him.

Cele said Wright had allegedly booked hotel accommodation for Joseph using false details.

Wright also had a contract with Joseph for exclusive interviews for seven days “after he made news,” according to Cele.

“Police have reason to believe that this incident was orchestrated and involved the co-operation of a number of individuals,” Cele said.

After the June 18 incident, in which Joseph entered the dressing room of the English team after their 0-0 draw with Algeria at Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium, the fan gave an exclusive interview to the Sunday Mirror, claiming he was directed to the England dressing room when he asked a security guard where he could find a toilet.

After his arrest, Joseph paid a $100 admission of guilt fine in exchange for a Cape Town magistrate dropping the charges against him

Following his bail, the journalist was asked to surrender his passport to authorities and was required to report daily to Cape Town police.

In defending his client, Wright’s lawyer, William Booth said there was no need for the state to worry about his client’s passport as he was remaining in South Africa until the matter has been resolved.

Refusing to drop charges, advocate Billy Downer said the state felt Wright had something to answer to and set the two-day hearing.

Defense lawyer William Booth said there was no charge of conspiracy between his client and Joseph.

Booth said it was “a great pity” that the state refused to withdraw charges because,” my client has a job and family to attend to.”

Booth was supported by Sunday Mirror lawyer Paul Mottram, who repeated the call by Booth of no evidence of a conspiracy between Wright and Joseph.

“We don’t know why they want to proceed,” Mottram said.