The rights to a fair trial for the Zimbo hunter accused in the Killing of Cecil the lion case have been violated, his lawyer said on Monday.
Defence lawyer Perpetua Dube said Theo Bronkhorst, who organised the July expedition for US dentist Walter Palmer to shoot the black-maned lion, was now seen as “an internationally-syndicated criminal”.
She said Bronkhorst’s rights to a fair trial had been violated by “the definite conclusion that he’s guilty; that he’s a culprit”.
“That is a violation in our view of the right to be presumed innocent until you’re found guilty by a court of law,” she said in a telephone interview.
Bronkhorst, 52, was due to go on trial on Monday for failing to prevent an unlawful hunt in the first week of July in Hwange National Park.
But his lawyers said the charges that Bronkhorst was facing in the Hwange Magistrate’s Court were “vague and incomplete” and they had made an application to have them quashed.
“We made an application for referral as well to the constitutional court. The state has asked for time to respond,” Dube said.
The court will now rule on October 15 whether the trial will go ahead, or whether it should be referred to the highest court. Bronkhorst could face up to 15 years in jail if convicted but might get off with a fine.
In an apparent reference to a July statement by Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri, Dube said: “There have been several violations that we’ve cited in the application.
“We have listed his right to a fair trial, especially with reference to the presumption of innocence.”
In July, after the killing of Cecil came to light and stirred worldwide outrage, the Zimbabwean environment minister issued a statement accusing Bronkhorst and Palmer of being part of an “organised gang” that conspired to “to undermine Zimbabwean laws”.
Meanwhile, it emerged on Monday that Bronkhorst would face three separate sets of charges in three different courts in October.
The latest charge the 52-year-old hunter is facing is that of breeding sable antelope illegally, his lawyer confirmed. He will have to appear in a Bulawayo court on October 19 on that charge. He also has to go on trial on October 5 on charges of trying to smuggle sable antelope into South Africa.
He has denied the charges.