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SA extends police chief contract

26 June 08 11:56 GMT

The South African government has extended the contract of suspended police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

The decision came as a Johannesburg court ordered Mr Selebi to stand trial on corruption charges next year. He has denied the charges.

A government spokesman said Mr Selebi's contract would be extended for a year, pending the trial's result.

Mr Selebi is a close ally of President Thabo Mbeki, who has been accused of trying to protect him.

In February, Mr Selebi was provisionally charged with corruption, accepting bribes worth 1.2m rand ($160,000, £80,000), and defeating the course of justice.

On leave

Judicial officials said after Thursday's hearing that they expected the commissioner's trial to start in April 2009.

Mr Selebi was placed on leave and forced to resign as head of Interpol earlier this year after authorities announced that he would be charged.

Government spokesman Themba Maseko said he would remain on leave during the court case.

"This decision was based on the need to allow due process to be concluded before a final decision could be taken on the future of his employment contract with the state," he said.

At the heart of the allegations is Mr Selebi's relationship with convicted drug smuggler, Glen Agliotti, who is also being charged with the murder of a prominent mining magnate.

South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has alleged that Agliotti paid bribes and gifts to the police commissioner in exchange for turning a blind eye to drugs trafficking.

Mr Selebi has denied allegations of links to organised crime.

Last year, Mr Mbeki suspended NPA chief prosecutor Vusi Pikoli after he issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr Selebi, a senior member of the ruling African National Congress.

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