South Africa Opens Inquest Into 1982 Death of Anti-Apartheid Activist in Police Custody

Dr. Neil Aggett

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa has opened an inquest into the death of an anti-apartheid activist in police custody nearly four decades ago as pressure for justice in similar cases continues.

Dr. Neil Aggett’s body was found hanging in the cells of the John Vorster police station in Johannesburg, which was infamous for the torture and deaths of activists fighting the oppressive racist system of apartheid.

An inquest cleared police of wrongdoing in the 1982 death and concluded that Aggett had killed himself. His family and human rights lawyers have long disagreed and called for another investigation into his death.

This case follows the groundbreaking one of Ahmed Timol, an anti-apartheid activist who also died in police detention at the same police station in 1971. Police claimed he jumped to his death, while his family argued he was tortured and killed.

Former policeman Joao Rodrigues is set to go on trial for Timol’s murder after a South African court last year declined his application for a permanent halt of his prosecution.

The National Prosecuting Authority said the ruling affirms that people who committed crimes during the apartheid era cannot dodge prosecution on the basis of how long ago the crimes took place.

South Africa’s justice minister soon afterward announced that the ministry would authorize inquests into the unsolved murders of other apartheid activists so their families may find justice and closure.

At least 73 political detainees died in police custody in South Africa between 1963 and 1990.

White minority rule ended in South Africa with all-race elections in 1994 that brought Nelson Mandela to power.

Source: Associated Press

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