[JURIST] Businessman Schabir Shaik, a former business associate of former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma [ANC party profile], began his appeal hearing before the South African Constitutional Court [official website] Wednesday. Shaik's lawyers allege that Shaik's conviction for fraud and corruption [JURIST report] was the result of an inherently unfair trial caused by Zuma's absence and "irregularities in prosecutorial conduct." Shaik applied for leave to appeal [JURIST report] in December after the South African Supreme Court of Appeals [official website] upheld the conviction [JURIST report] in November, finding that enough evidence existed to support the case and the 15-year jail term handed down to Shaik. The Constitutional Court will decide whether Shaik may proceed with his appeal or if his sentence is final.
South African President Thabo Mbeki [BBC profile] fired Zuma [JURIST report] from his position in 2005 after Shaik was initially found guilty. Zuma has indicated repeatedly that he intends to run against Mbeki in the 2009 presidential election. In June, the African National Congress [party website] reinstated Zuma [JURIST report] to his deputy president position within the party after he was acquitted on rape charges [JURIST report]. In September, a high court judge tossed the corruption charges brought against Zuma himself [JURIST report], saying prosecutors failed to follow proper procedures, though the charges may be brought again in the future. SAPA has more.