The presiding judge of the corruption trial of former South African President Jacob Zuma Monday announced that he will be recusing himself from the case. Judge Piet Keon revealed his decision to the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, citing concerns over the “integrity of the judicial process.”The decision comes after Keon rejected Zuma’s application to have the lead prosecutor, Billy Downer, removed from the case. Zuma accused Downer of leaking medical documents to the media. Keon held that these claims did not hold enough merit to impair Zuma’s right to a fair trial–a stance affirmed by the Constitutional Court.Despite this, Zuma persisted in his months-long bid to have Downer removed from the trial. Keon’s recusal is a preemptive measure when faced with concerns about whether Zuma received a constitutionally fair trial. He explained this in his judgment:It is what the sound administration of justice, the requirements of the Constitution, and my conscience dictate. No reasonable negative inferences as to whether the trial is constitutionally fair, should be allowed to arise. Mr Zuma argued that ‘It is not enough for a judge to be just in his judgment; he should strive to make the parties and the community feel that he is just; he owes this to himself, to the law and to the position he holds.’ That submission is correct.The Zuma Foundation welcomed Keon’s decision, calling it a “sober call” and called again for Downer to be removed.Zuma is facing trial over 16 charges, mostly concerned with corruption and fraud. Since his trial began, there have been multiple delays in the proceedings. There are now concerns that finding a new judge could cause further delay.
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