South Africa's former top cop gets medical parole

July 20, 2012 - 9:38 AM

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa's former police chief, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail for corruption, will be set free on health grounds, the country's prison authorities said Friday.

Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele told reporters that Jackie Selebi, who is also a former head of the international police organization Interpol, "will be going home today."

Selebi, 62, is suffering from kidney failure, diabetes and suspected cancer. He has received treatment at the Pretoria Central prison, but the facility cannot provide sufficient palliative care for terminally ill offenders like Selebi, Ndebele said.

Selebi resigned as national police commissioner and Interpol chief when corruption charges involving collusion with organized crime figures were filed in 2008.

His successor as police chief was also suspended last year on graft allegations. Both were veteran members of South Africa's governing African National Congress party.

Officials said Selebi has been transferred to a Pretoria hospital where he will remain until doctors say he is well enough to go home. Prison guards were removed from the hospital unit treating him Friday.

Prison authority official Tom Moyane insisted Selebi received no preferential considerations in receiving parole, describing it as "a purely medical decision."

Selebi collapsed in shock when he lost an appeals trial in December to overturn his sentence passed in 2010 when a court found him guilty of accepting money and perks from a convicted South African drugs smuggler, Glen Agliotti.

The Rev. Frank Chikane, a longtime anti-apartheid activist and respected theologian who has also served as director in the South African presidency, believes crime figures aligned themselves to ANC leaders before the first democratic elections in 1994 that swept the ANC to power.

Agliotti befriended Selebi when he was based at the party's exile headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia and gave the ANC money donations, ostensibly for its liberation cause, Chikane said in public lecture on Wednesday.

Chikane, who was frequently arrested for his activism in apartheid-era South Africa, said criminals identified the country's upcoming black leaders as soon-to-be allies in the new government and helped them with cash— both in exile and at home.

"Check who visited us and people in Lusaka and who brought money to assist the ANC. There was a thought that this was innocent, but it was not," Chikane said.