Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)

Haron judgment expected to overturn finding

- BULELWA PAYI bulelwa.payi@inl.co.za

LEGAL experts, families of victims of apartheid-era crimes and the South African public await in suspense for the final outcome of the reopened inquest into the death of political activist Imam Abdullah Haron.

Western Cape High Court Judge Daniel Thulare is expected to deliver the judgment on Monday, which is regarded as a major step in redressing the horrors of the apartheid regime.

The legal team representi­ng the Haron family, led by advocate Howard Varney, hoped the judgment would bring more than just a legal decision but a “promise of closure” for the grieving Haron family.

“We await the inquest judgment with a profound sense of hope and anticipati­on. As we look forward to the verdict, we remain committed to the pursuit of truth, justice and the honouring of the imam’s legacy.”

Haron was critical of the apartheid system and had close ties with the then-banned PAC.

After spending 123 days in solitary confinemen­t and being subjected to torture, he died at the Maitland police station on September 27, 1969.

An initial inquest into Haron’s death held no one accountabl­e even though the presiding magistrate, JPS Kuhn, found that a likely contributi­ng cause was trauma that led to blood clotting.

The inquest held that a “substantia­l part” of the trauma was caused by an “accidental” fall down a flight of stairs.

A post-mortem report showed that Haron suffered a broken rib and 27 visible bruises.

“Evidence led by the family legal team at the reopened inquest provided incontrove­rtible expert evidence that Imam Haron had been killed by the Security Branch,” said executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights, Yasmin Sooka.

The two notorious Special Branch members who interrogat­ed Haron were Major Dirk Kotze Genis and Sergeant Johannes “Spyker” van Wyk.

Both have since died.

The reopened inquest heard evidence by pathologis­t Dr Steve Naidoo that the injuries on Haron’s body resulted from the use of blunt force.

Naidoo testified that it was more likely that Haron had been kicked while on the floor in the days leading up to his death. Pathologis­t Dr Itumeleng Molefe also contradict­ed the initial inquest findings and said the bruises on Haron’s body were the primary underlying cause of his death.

The only surviving member of the South African Police (SAP) who had contact with Haron in detention, Johannes Burger, conceded after seeing post-mortem drawings that Haron had died from torture. “We are therefore confident that the reopened inquest will overturn the finding of the first inquest court, and find that Imam Haron died at the hands of the Security Branch,” said Sooka.

Although the Haron family was entitled to demand that the National Prosecutin­g Authority (NPA) prosecute Burger for perjury for having not disclosed at the first inquest that Haron had been tortured, they informed Judge Thulare that they did not want to do so. The family said there was a “certain unfairness in holding a person of Burger’s stature as the only person criminally liable in such circumstan­ces”.

A senior lecturer at the Department of Criminal Justice and Procedure at UWC, Dr Windell Nortje, described the Haron inquest as an important step in redressing “the horrors” of the apartheid regime.

 ?? | Supplied ?? IMAM Abdullah Haron.
| Supplied IMAM Abdullah Haron.

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