Ti­mol pushed from 10th floor, judge finds

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - Zelda Ven­ter

THE 2017 re­opened in­quest into anti-apartheid ac­tivist Ahmed Ti­mol’s death has re­vealed a num­ber of lessons to be learnt, in­clud­ing that branches of state had to en­sure that re­spect for hu­man rights and dig­nity should never be crossed.

This was the mes­sage of Judge Billy Mothle dur­ing his 129-page judg­ment de­liv­ered in the Pre­to­ria High Court yes­ter­day.

The in­quest was the first of its kind in the coun­try.

The judge found that Ti­mol did not com­mit sui­cide 46 years ago when he fell from the no­to­ri­ous John Vorster Square Po­lice Sta­tion in Jo­han­nes­burg.

He con­cluded that Ti­mol was ei­ther pushed from the 10th floor of the build­ing or from the rooftop.

Judge Mothle found that the then Spe­cial Branch po­lice of­fi­cers who in­ter­ro­gated Ti­mol at the time were col­lec­tively re­spon­si­ble for his death and should be held ac­count­able.

“Ti­mol did not jump… he was pushed and thus he did not com­mit sui­cide, but was mur­dered,” the judge said. The act was com­mit­ted through do­lus even­tu­alis – that his in­ter­roga­tors should have fore­seen that he could die – and, on the face of it, it amounted to mur­der, the judge found.

Judge Mothle said there was prima fa­cie ev­i­dence im­pli­cat­ing se­cu­rity po­lice­men Hans Gloy and Jo­hannes van Niek­erk. But both had since died.

Jan Ro­drigues, the of­fi­cer who claimed to have been there when Ti­mol fell out of the win­dow, had to be in­ves­ti­gated with a view to pros­e­cut­ing him on a charge of per­jury and be­ing an ac­ces­sory after the fact, Judge Mothle said.

“Ro­drigues, on his own ver­sion, par­tic­i­pated in the cover-up to con­ceal the crime of mur­der as an ac­ces­sory after the fact. He went on to com­mit per­jury by pre­sent­ing con­tra­dic­tory ev­i­dence be­fore the 1972 and 2017 in­quests,” the judge said.

It was the view of the court that the fam­i­lies whose rel­a­tives died in de­ten­tion, par­tic­u­larly those where the in­quest find­ings were death by sui­cide, should be as­sisted in their ini­tia­tive to ob­tain the records and gather fur­ther information to have the ini­tial in­quests re­opened.

The judge said the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion, work­ing with law-en­force­ment agen­cies, should be suf­fi­ciently re­sourced to take on this task.

Ti­mol, a teacher, was 29 when he was ar­rested in a road­block on Oc­to­ber 22, 1971. He was in­ter­ro­gated and tor­tured by mem­bers of the se­cu­rity po­lice for days on end, un­til his death on Oc­to­ber 27.

His in­ter­ro­ga­tion was con­ducted by Gloy and Van Niek­erk. On the day Ti­mol died, it was their turn to in­ter­ro­gate him in the feared Room 1026.

Three in­de­pen­dent wit­nesses put the time of death in the morn­ing, while Ro­drigues stuck to his guns that it was in the af­ter­noon.

The court ac­cepted that Ti­mol fell dur­ing the morn­ing and that Ro­drigues was brought in, in the af­ter­noon, to le­git­imise the cover-up. Judge Mothle con­cluded that the find­ing of the 1972 in­quest was wrong.

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