Jackie Selebi
The former head of South Africa's police force Jackie Selebi is appealing his conviction on accepting bribes. REUTERS

The former police chief of South Africa, Jackie Selebi, has filed an appeal against his conviction for taking bribes from a drug dealer, according to the South African Press Association (SAPA).

SAPA noted that Selebi did not attend the appeal hearing due to illness.

Last summer, Selebi, who was once the president of Interpol and South Africa’s ambassador to the UN, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a jury decided that he had received a bribe of 1.2 million rand ($156,000) from convicted drug dealer Glenn Agliotti in order to ignore his criminal activities.

Agliotti is also suspected of having some link to the 2005 murder of prominent mining magnate, Brett Kebble. He also worked as a police informant.

Jaap Cilliers, Selebi’s lead attorney, has asked judges at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein to reconsider Agliotti's testimony, according to SAPA.

You should very seriously evaluate the opportunistic conduct of witnesses, Cilliers reportedly asked the jurists. Somebody out there made allegations about the appellant. You should bear in mind that there were people out there who made it their business to discredit the appellant and have him tried.

At that time of his conviction, Selebi was a prominent member of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party and closely connected to former President Thabo Mbeki. He has the dubious distinction of being the most senior government official to be convicted of corruption.

However, Selebi's successor as police chief, General Bheki Cele, was just suspended for participating in illegal property deals. Cele will remain under suspension until an inquiry into the matter.

Reportedly, public protector Thuli Madonsela said her probe of Cele revealed that that police buildings were leased from a private firm at inflated prices. It is unclear of any criminal conduct was involved.

Meanwhile, Selebi remains free on bail. If, however, his two-day appeal fails, he will have to go to jail.

Selebi was the first black police chief in South Africa.