May 22, 2006

Namibia releases photo journalist shadowing Jolie

By Gordon Bell

WALVIS BAY, Namibia (Reuters) - A Namibian judge dismissed
charges on Monday against a South African photographer arrested
for trespassing while trying to snap a shot of pregnant
superstar Angelina Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt.

John Liebenberg was taken into custody on Friday afternoon
after driving into the back of a police barracks in search of a
vantage point to take a photograph of a nearby private hospital
in the port town of Walvis bay.

The 48-year-old veteran photo journalist was reacting to a
tip-off that Jolie had been rushed there to have her baby.

He was released on a warning after being detained for three
days in a communal cell.

"It might be that you are a foreigner and that you were
arrested for trespassing (but) why was it necessary to keep you
in custody for the whole weekend?" Walvis Bay magistrate Sarel
Jacobs asked during sentencing.

"I don't understand that and I think it was unnecessary,"
he added before dismissing the charge.

The prosecution had asked for a fine of 1,000 Namibian
dollars ($152) or a year in prison. Liebenberg's lawyer had
suggested a fine.

Liebenberg, well known to the couple's bodyguards and
security personnel, said police may have wanted to use him as
an example to warn other photographers and media.

"They probably wanted to make an example of me to the other
so-called nasty paparazzi press. But we have been very
respectful to them," he told Reuters.

Pitt, 42, and Jolie, 30 -- dubbed "Brangelina" by the
tabloid press -- have sparked a media frenzy since arriving in
the southern African country over six weeks ago to have their
first child, far from the prying lenses of Hollywood.

Their bodyguards and Namibian security have shielded the
couple from journalists and hounded some out of town.

Green cloth screens mask the beach resort where they are
staying, while pepper-spraying bodyguards and undercover police
have made it almost impossible to get close.

Jolie's due date had been reported to be May 18.