Ti­mol: Was it mur­der or sui­cide?

That is the ques­tion the in­quest judge must de­cide over the next month

Pretoria News Weekend - - NEWS - BRENDA MASILELA

IT WILL take a month for the judge over­see­ing the in­quest into the death of anti-apartheid ac­tivist Ahmed Ti­mol to rule whether it was sui­cide or mur­der.

Judge Billy Mothle said he had a moun­tain of pa­per­work to go through and he would likely make his de­ci­sion next month.

Clos­ing ar­gu­ments into the Ti­mol in­quest were made on Thurs­day at the Gaut­eng High Court, Pre­to­ria.

Ad­vo­cate Jo­hannes Coet­zee, who is rep­re­sent­ing the po­lice­men im­pli­cated in Ti­mol’s death, ar­gued that ev­i­dence in­di­cat­ing that Ti­mol had mul­ti­ple in­juries which he sus­tained prior his demise was based on spec­u­la­tion. “The pic­tures were not of good qual­ity and were faded,” said Coet­zee.

Two in­de­pen­dent pathol­o­gist told the court that Ti­mol had in­juries, which were not con­sis­tent with a fall from a height.

One of the pathol­o­gists said Ti­mol had a se­vere in­jury on his an­kle, which would have made it im­pos­si­ble for him to walk with­out as­sis­tance, and couldn’t have jumped out of the win­dow un­less as­sisted.

Coet­zee dis­missed these find­ings as con­jec­ture and said both pathol­o­gists’ ev­i­dence was not based on facts.

“The court must look at the ver- acity of ev­i­dence,” im­plored Coet­zee.

In 1972 – four-and-a-half decades ago – Ti­mol’s death was ruled as sui­cide by mag­is­trate JL de Vil­liers. The South African Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) mem­ber was said to have jumped out of the 10th floor of the John Vorster Square po­lice sta­tion in 1971. The in­fa­mous sta­tion, where many anti-apartheid ac­tivists were tor­tured, has since been re­named the Jo­han­nes­burg Cen­tral po­lice sta­tion.

How­ever, Coet­zee ar­gued that sui­cide shouldn’t be the only in­fer­ence drawn in the mat­ter. He said it was pos­si­ble that Ti­mol jumped in an at­tempt to es­cape. He asked the court to make an in­con­clu­sive find­ing re­gard­ing the mat­ter.

The judge ex­plained that in the case of as­sault he won’t be spec­u­lat­ing as ev­i­dence was clear on that part. But he ad­mit­ted he had dif­fi­culty ac­cept­ing tes­ti­mony that se­cu­rity branch po­lice­men only knew of tor­ture at John Vorster through me­dia re­ports.

Ti­mol was ar­rested with his friend Dr Salim Es­sop after the car they were trav­el­ling in was found with banned ANC and SACP lit­er­a­ture.

Es­sop tes­ti­fied dur­ing the first phase of the in­quest and he told the court he was se­verely as­saulted dur­ing his ar­rest and was near death when he was taken to hospi­tal.

Ti­mol’s fam­ily has al­ways re­jected the sui­cide find­ing, in­sist­ing in­stead that the­ac­tivist was mur­dered by apartheid po­lice.

For years fam­ily mem­bers have fought to have the in­quest re-opened. Ti­mol died six days shy of his 30th birth­day.

On Thurs­day the fam­ily’s le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Howard Var­ney, asked the court to dis­miss the ver­sion of the po­lice­men on events lead­ing to Ti­mol’s death.

Var­ney told the court two for­mer se­cu­rity branch po­lice­men, Neville Els and Seth Sons, should be in­ves­ti­gated for per­jury. They worked at John Vorster Square po­lice sta­tion around the time of Ti­mol’s death, tes­ti­fied that they had never wit­nessed any as­saults on de­tainees, but had read news­pa­per re­ports about the das­tardly deeds.

Var­ney said the court must find that Ti­mol did not com­mit sui­cide and that he was in fact mur­dered while in po­lice cus­tody. – ANA

The pic­tures were not of good qual­ity and were faded

Ad­vo­cate Coet­zee

Ti­mol fam­ily lawyer Ad­vo­cate Howard Var­ney at the Gaut­eng High Court, Pre­to­ria.

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