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South African Prostitute on Trial for Killing Diplomat

The trial of a South African prostitute charged with murdering a U.S. diplomat, Christopher ‘Norm’ Bates, in January began this week in Johannesburg.

“The accused faces a murder charge,” Hurbetin Phindi Louw, a regional manager for South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority, said in an e-mailed response to questions about the trial of Lorraine Mohapi. “The accused admits that she is a prostitute.” She has pleaded self defense.

Bates was a U.S. consulate worker in Johannesburg. Mohapi agreed to have sex with him for 200 rand ($20), the Johannesburg-based Star newspaper reported yesterday, citing trial proceedings.

“We’re following the court proceedings but we are not involved,” said Jack Hillmeyer, a Pretoria-based spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, in a phone interview yesterday.

He said he could only comment on policy, not the case.

“We’re prohibited from purchasing commercial sex anywhere in the world, even in places where it is legal,” he said. “Department employees who violate these prohibitions can be subject to disciplinary action up to and including separation.”

Prostitution is illegal in South Africa.

Bates had been assigned as the information management officer at the consulate in Johannesburg since 2010, Hillmeyer said in a Jan. 14 statement. He’d worked for the Department of State for 11 years and had previously served at U.S. embassies in Senegal, Kenya, and Lesotho.

Bates was discovered dead on Jan. 13 at his housing complex in Illovo, an affluent area in the north of the city, with Mohapi, according to testimony, the Star said. Mohapi said that Bates had chased her with a baseball bat and she had stabbed him in self defense, the Star reported. She was found holding the alleged murder weapon, the newspaper said.

The NPA didn’t immediately respond to e-mails and phone calls requesting contact details for Mohapi’s lawyers. The Law Society of The Northern Provinces, which keeps details for lawyers who operate in Johannesburg, wasn’t open today.

The trial is taking place at the South Gauteng High Court.

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