South Africa court: Ac­tivist mur­dered

Rul­ing raises hopes that sim­i­lar cases will be in­ves­ti­gated.

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JO­HAN­NES­BURG — An anti-apartheid ac­tivist who died in 1971 was tor­tured and killed by South African po­lice, a court said Thurs­day, a land­mark de­ci­sion that raised hopes that dozens of sim­i­lar cases would be in­ves­ti­gated.

The in­quest into Ahmed Ti­mol’s death had riv­eted South Africans as le­gal ex­perts said it could set a prece­dent for ex­am­in­ing sim­i­lar deaths.

“It is sad that it took so long,” No­bel Peace Prize win­ner and for­mer arch­bishop Des­mond Tutu said in a state­ment read out by Ti­mol’s fam­ily, lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

The court found that Ti­mol did not kill him­self by jump­ing from a 10th-floor win­dow, as au­thor­i­ties said at the time.

An in­quest found that the South African Com­mu­nist Party mem­ber was mur­dered af­ter his ar­rest and trans­fer to a Jo­han­nes­burg po­lice sta­tion where op­po­nents of white mi­nor­ity rule were of­ten held with­out trial and tor­tured.

Judge Billy Mothle said ev­i­dence sug­gests Ti­mol was pushed out of the win­dow. Two for­mer po­lice of­fi­cers should be in­ves­ti­gated, one for al­legedly mis­lead­ing the court and an­other for al­leged per­jury, the judge said.

Ti­mol was one of 73 po­lit­i­cal de­tainees who died in po­lice cus­tody in South Africa be­tween 1963 and 1990. The sys­tem of white-mi­nor­ity rule ended in the early 1990s.

Ti­mol’s fam­ily had pushed South Africa’s gov­ern­ment to open a new crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his death as the coun­try still strug­gles to find jus­tice for the atroc­i­ties of a not-so-dis­tant past. Foren­sic pathol­o­gists tes­ti­fied that Ti­mol suf­fered se­ri­ous in­juries to his head and leg that were in­com­pat­i­ble with his fall, and that would have made it dif­fi­cult for him to climb onto the win­dow sill and jump.

For­mer se­cu­rity po­lice­man Joao Ro­drigues, who said he was in the room with Ti­mol when he died, has stood by his story, say­ing the ac­tivist dove out of the win­dow be­fore Ro­drigues could stop him.

AP

Im­tiaz Ca­jee, nephew of Ahmed Ti­mol, poses with his book, “Ti­mol: A Quest for Jus­tice,” in Pretoria, South Africa. A court has found that Ti­mol did not kill him­self by jump­ing from a 10th-floor win­dow, as au­thor­i­ties said in 1971.

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