POLICE, apparently with no court order and acting on their own accord, barred the family and supporters of a murdered Muslim businessman from the Gauteng courtroom their son’s alleged killers were appearing in yesterday.
With the appearance kept secret, police locked the door of the Krugersdorp magistrate’s courtroom when the family of Mohammed Fazaar Kazi tried to enter.
Relatives, friends and journalists had waited for hours in another courtroom where they had been told the men would appear.
Kazi, 27, was beaten to death in an alleged Islamaphobic attack last Monday while buying food from a Chicken Licken outlet in Magaliesburg.
Kazi and his business partner, Anser Mahmood, had stopped to break their Ramadan fast when they were attacked – allegedly by two white Afrikaans-speaking men.
Emotions ran high yesterday when family members and friends discovered that the men were appearing in another courtroom.
Trying to force their way into the courtroom, relatives demanded access as police kept the door locked and forced them back.
"This is a public court. The appearance was done in secret. Something is very wrong,” family spokesman Zahid Asmal said.
Krugersdorp resident Fadheelah Patel, 49, who was at court to support Kazi’s family, said the attack was not isolated.
Patel made an impassioned plea for all South Africans to stand up against such attacks.
Mahmood, with bruises still clearly visible on his face, broke down in tears outside the courtroom as he pleaded for justice.
"Mohammed was more than a brother. He was everything to me. He did not deserve to die like this.
"They beat us to kill us and I want justice,” he said.
Iqbal Jassat, Media Review Network executive director, whose organisation works to dispel stereotypes about Islam and Muslims, said they were concerned by the actions of the police.
"We were told no one was allowed in because an identity parade still needs to be held and due process must be followed, but no one has said what this due process is,” he said.
Police spokesman Lieutenant- Colonel Katlego Mogale could not say why Kazi’s family were barred from entering the courtroom.
"An identity parade is to be held this week...There were fears that members of the public would take pictures with their cellphones, so they were stopped from going inside,” she said.
"The accused were remanded into custody and will appear in court [today].”
South Gauteng National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Phindi Louw said investigations were still under way and the barring of the public was done to protect evidence which still had to collected.