South Africa prosecutors urged to act in apartheid-era death
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The family of a South African anti-apartheid activist who was tortured and killed by police in 1971 is pushing state prosecutors to act against three former police officers linked to the murder.
Ahmed Timol’s family said Thursday that it does not want vengeance and would back plea bargains by the men, who are in their 80s, as long as they tell the truth about a case that was ruled a suicide at the time.
A judge last year overturned that ruling and found that Timol, a member of the South African Communist Party, was murdered after his arrest and transfer to a Johannesburg police station where opponents of white minority rule were often held. The judge said one former officer should be prosecuted for allegedly being an accessory to murder, while all three men should be investigated for alleged perjury.
Legal experts say the case could set a precedent for investigating similar deaths.
Other apartheid-era police officers implicated in Timol’s death have died over the years. Timol is believed to have been pushed from the building and did not jump as authorities concluded soon after his death.
“As a family, we have run a long, painful and exhausting race to see justice done,” Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee, said in a statement. However, he warned that “prosecutorial delays would totally undermine” a process seen as a long-overdue effort to hold apartheid-era enforcers to account for their crimes.
The surviving officers “are not young men, and time is therefore of the essence,” Cajee said. “The truth will not only provide closure for the Timol family, and the policemen themselves, but also materially assist other families seeking to put the record straight about the deaths of loved ones at the hands of apartheid police.”
White minority rule ended in South Africa with all-race elections in 1994. As part of a reconciliation process, a commission chaired by Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu investigated past atrocities and granted amnesty to some accused perpetrators. Today, some South Africans believe more former white officials should have been prosecuted.
The three remaining former police officers implicated in Timol’s murder had not applied for amnesty before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The National Prosecuting Authority said after the 2017 inquest that they could be prosecuted.
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