Judgment in the #AhmedTimol inquest to be handed down

Judge Billy Mothle presides over the inquest into the death of Ahmed Timol. (News24)
Judge Billy Mothle presides over the inquest into the death of Ahmed Timol. (News24)

Johannesburg - Judgment in the Ahmed Timol inquest is expected to be handed down in the North Gauteng High Court at 10:00 on Thursday.

After months of testimonies and deliberation, South Africans will hear whether someone should be held liable for the death of the anti-apartheid activist, who police alleged jumped out of a window on the 10th floor of John Vorster Square in Johannesburg in 1971.

A press briefing is expected to be held 30 minutes after the announcement of the judgment, the family said on Wednesday night.

READ: Timol verdict could open the accountability floodgates for apartheid crimes

While Timol's death on October 27, 1971, was ruled a suicide, a private investigation launched by the Timol family into his death uncovered new evidence which was presented to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The NPA agreed to reopen an inquest conducted in 1972, which had ruled that Timol had killed himself and had not been brutally murdered by the apartheid security branch police while he was in detention.

The inquest, which was the first of its kind in recent years, began in June and completed its hearings in August.

READ: Witness suggests that Timol died in morning, contradicting security cop

Detainees tortured

Judge Billy Mothle patiently sat listening to witness after witness recounting their own version of events, trying to piece together the puzzle that could lead to the truth about how Timol died.

The first to take the stand during the inquest was one of Timol's friends, struggle icon Salim Essop.

An animated Essop relived his detention at John Vorster Square on Commissioner Street.

During his testimony, Essop told the court that detainees - including him - were tortured by the security branch police.

READ: Timol's father died a 'broken man'

Essop also played a critical role during the inspection in loco when he took the court around the prison, now called Johannesburg Central police station, as well as to room 1026 where it is said Timol killed himself.

Respected human rights lawyer George Bizos laid bare how security police, the judiciary and medical professionals worked together during apartheid to prevent the administration of justice.

He said that during apartheid, the security branch police were a law unto themselves.

A key witness in the case was former security branch police sergeant, Joao Jan Rodrigues, who was the last person to see Timol alive.

'Suicide' disputed

Rodrigues told the court that on the day of Timol's death he had been summoned to John Vorster Square by officers Captain Gloy and Van Niekerk.

Shortly after he arrived to drop off the officers' salaries and a sealed envelope, an unknown man (Mr X) walked in announcing the arrest of three other people linked to Timol.

Then the two officers left the room, asking Rodrigues to keep a close eye on Timol.

READ #TimolInquest: Key witness to face more questions on Timol’s time of death

A few moments later Rodrigues said Timol requested to go to the toilet and as he was taking him there, Timol quickly rushed to the window of the building and jumped.

Rodrigues said as far as he could remember, he did not see any injuries on Timol.

He maintained that his version of events was true.

Rodrigues was later re-examined by the court to determine the exact time of Timol's death. Rodrigues had testified that Timol's death occurred in the late afternoon - a story he has maintained since 1971 when Timol died.

But this was disputed by several other witnesses.

Other witnesses who also testified included Ronnie Kasrils, Aziz Pahad and members of Timol's family, all of whom said Timol would never have committed suicide because he loved life, his girlfriend, and because he was a Muslim.

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