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Biko’s family to oppose amnesty for former policemen

February 10, 1997

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ Surviving relatives of anti-apartheid leader Steve Biko will oppose amnesty applications filed by five former policemen who admit responsibility for his 1977 death.

Biko’s widow, Ntsiki, his two sons and other relatives decided Sunday they want the five men to stand trial, and will legally challenge the applications filed last month with South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The 17-member commission, headed by retired archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, is investigating apartheid-era political crimes. It has the power to grant amnesty to individuals who confess.

Biko’s family, which unsuccessfully challenged the law creating the commission, met with two lawyers Sunday and decided to fight the retired officers’ requests for amnesty, the South African Press Association said.

``If the full story does not come out, we can exercise our right and oppose the applications,″ said Peter Jones, an associate of Biko’s who was at the meeting. ``We have no indication that these people are wanting to spill the beans.″

Biko, a charismatic black leader, died of untreated head injuries in a Pretoria prison on Sept. 12, 1977, at age 30. The death _ the apparent result of a beating by police _ impassioned the anti-apartheid movement inside and outside South Africa.

Police for years denied beating or torturing Biko to death, blaming his injuries on a scuffle as they tried to restrain him.

Last month, five former policemen _ Col. Harold Snyman, Lt. Col. Gideon Nieuwoudt, Ruben Marx, Daantjie Siebert and Johan Beneke _ admitted assaulting Biko in prison and acknowledged responsibility for his death.

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