Ahmed Timol inquest reopened 2 days before 45th anniversary of his death

2016-10-26 22:05

(Erin Bates)

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Cape Town - An inquest into the death of teacher and anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol who died in police custody 45 years ago will be reopened by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

After being ruled a suicide in 1972, a private investigation launched by Timol's family into his death uncovered new evidence which it presented to the NPA, asking for the inquest to be reopened.

According to the Timol Family Trust, the NPA agreed that there was compelling evidence and said it would investigate.

"The National Director of Public Prosecutions has requested the minister of justice to approach the Judge President of the Gauteng High Court to allocate a judge for the hearing of the inquest," the trust said in a statement.

The Roodepoort teacher's loved ones did not believe Timol, the 22nd person to die in police custody, had jumped from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square while being interrogated by security police.

"It wasn't in his character to give up. They believe he was either tortured to death and thrown from the window, or pushed," the trust said on Wednesday.

"But despite the presentation of medical evidence of gruesome torture, the magistrate who conducted the inquest at the height of apartheid bought the security police version that they had treated Timol compassionately, and found that nobody could be held responsible for his death."

Timol left South Africa in December 1966 to perform Hajj in Saudi Arabia and moved on to London where he linked up with his exiled friends, Essop and Aziz Pahad.

Mother 'smiling in heaven'

He underwent political training at the Lenin School in the Soviet Union in 1969, accompanied by Thabo Mbeki and Anne Nicholson. He returned to SA in 1970 where he built underground structures for the banned ANC and SACP.

"On the evening of October 22, 1971, Timol accompanied by medical student, Saleem Essop, were stopped at a police roadblock in Coronationville. Timol and Saleem were taken to the Newlands Police Station where they were separated and later taken to the John Vorster Square police station.

"Four days and 19 hours later, police alleged that Timol jumped to his death. By then, Essop was in hospital after being tortured to an inch of his life," the trust said.

The Timol family was on Tuesday informed of the decision to reopen the inquest.

Timol's nephew Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee paid tribute to Timol's mother, Hawa Timol, who appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996 to plead for her son's case to be reopened.

"My grandmother has since passed away, but she will be smiling in heaven today," Cajee said.

He said intensive investigations left the family convinced members of SAPS' then security branch were responsible for the death, and substantive information was forwarded to the head of the priority crimes litigation unit of the NPA.

Cajee said reopening the inquest would provide details of what transpired on the last days of his uncle's life.

"Other important outstanding questions related to Timol's movements in the days leading up to his arrest. Was his underground operation compromised by an informer? And, was the police roadblock at which he was arrested staged to appear that the arrest was accidental?" the trust asked.

In commemoration of the 45th anniversary of his death, the Ahmed Timol Exhibition will be opened in Ginsberg, King Williams Town.

The trust said it hoped the inquest will set precedent for other families to follow.

Read more on:    saps  |  johannesburg  |  trc

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