By JENNY GROSS, Associated Press
JOHANNESBURG (AP) _ A South African court on Friday refused a U.S. request that the son-in-law of former South African President Nelson Mandela be sent to Connecticut to face sexual assault charges.
Magistrate Tefo Myambo ruled in Isaac Amuah’s favor at an extradition hearing in Johannesburg, saying he was convinced the accuser was alleging rape to try to get money.
Amuah is accused of sexually assaulting a 34-year-old student inside his Connecticut apartment in 1993. He was given permission to travel to South Africa while the case was pending and never returned.
Myambo said he believes that had Amuah been charged in South Africa instead of the U.S., prosecutors would not have let the case get as far as it did.
“It baffles my mind how the matter got to this stage,” Myambo said. “I’m convinced that at the least, this is a case of extortion of major proportions.”
Amuah, a former professor at Manchester Community Technical College, left Connecticut 12 years ago while facing the charges, which he denied.
Amuah’s lawyer said the U.S. government did not include pertinent details on the case in its extradition request. He said the complainant asked Amuah for $100,000 to drop charges, then lowered the offer when Amuah refused.
“The magistrate was misled, not by accident, by design,” said defense lawyer Ian Small-Smith. “The state of Connecticut designed an extradition application to suit their needs.”
He said U.S. authorities also left out that Gail Hardy, the state attorney in Connecticut, reviewed the case in 2007 and tried to withdraw charges, but didn’t after the complainant accused Hardy of racial bias against her.
“I am bold enough to say that when the minister or anyone in this court hears the whole story, they’re going to say ‘I smell a rat,”’ Small-Smith said.
Amuah and his wife Makaziwe Mandela, Mandela’s eldest daughter, left soon after the ruling without speaking to reporters.
Amuah’s spokesman, Tonny Sauls, said: “The American authorities need to get their house in order before making accusations like this.”
State prosecutor Deon Barnard said sufficient evidence implicated Amuah _ enough to send him to Connecticut for the trial.
“It is not for this court to hold a little trial and make a decision on the strength and weakness of the case in a foreign state,” Barnard said.
Nicole Fritz, director of the Southern African Litigation Center, said the magistrate acted within his authority by throwing the case off the roll before it was heard in the U.S. If there is insufficient evidence against the defendant, magistrates can refuse extradition requests, she said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)