Charges against 14 men who were arrested at Pretoria’s Camp David nude bar have been withdrawn by the state. Among those who were charged with public indecency when the club was raided in November last year was the owner, Dannie Haarman.
The state withdrew the charges on Thursday morning because of lack of evidence after its witnesses failed to appear in court. The move comes as a conclusion to a long-running dispute between Camp David and the authorities.
“I’m quite relieved. But I’m wondering what will happen next – and if they [the police] will retaliate,” says Haarman about the charges being withdrawn.
While police claim that Camp David is a public venue, Haarman insists that it is a private club open to paying members only: “They had to smash down closed doors to get in.” He says that a plethora of other charges against him including running a brothel, obstructing a fire entrance, and not having a liquor license have all been dropped or won in court.
“We are not a brothel. No money is exchanged for sex – it’s a nude bar,” says Haarman, who adds that he is particularly upset over today’s reporting on the case by the press. He is angry that some newspapers, including the Pretoria News, published photographs and the full names of the men who appeared in court yesterday.
“The press have publicly ‘outed‘ their sexual orientation, and they haven’t even been asked to plead or been found guilty of anything. One of them has two kids in school,” says Haarman.
In late November last year, the Pretoria High Court blocked newspapers from publishing pictures taken by the press of the nude men who were arrested at the raid on the club. Pretoria police routinely invite the media to participate in raids on clubs and bars.
Haarman has repeatedly claimed that the venue has been targeted by police because it is a gay establishment, adding that three raids over the span of two months in 2006 have negatively affected his business.
In February, an urgent application to have the raids on Camp David declared unlawful, failed. Haarman says that he is appealing the judgment, accusing the judge of being homophobic: “He said that sex between two men is immoral and illegal. How can a judge not know the laws of the country?”
Haarman adds that, “My advocate is very confident that we will win and, once we do, I will sue the police.”
Police have denied the claims of homophobia saying that they raided Camp David to check for contraventions of its liquor license. Pornographic material and “powder and pills” were also confiscated in the November raid, although no charges have come of this.
So will Haarman continue to operate Camp David? “Yes, of course”, he replies, “they are not going to stop me.”