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Ahmed Timol matter: SCA to hear application by apartheid cop for permanent stay of prosecution


  • Former Security Branch officer Joao Rodrigues applied for a permanent stay of prosecution at the Supreme Court of Appeal.
  • Rodrigues is accused of killing anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol on 27 October 1971 at the then-John Vorster Square police station.
  • In 1972, it was found that Timol committed suicide by jumping through a window on the 10th floor of the building.
  • However, that ruling was overturned in 2017 by Judge Billy Mothle, who recommended the NPA pursue criminal case against Rodrigues and two former colleagues.

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein will hear an appeal for a permanent stay of prosecution by former Security Branch officer Joao Rodrigues against the National Director of Public Prosecutions.

Rodrigues is accused of killing anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol on 27 October 1971, at the then-John Vorster Square police station, now known as Johannesburg Central police station.

Timol was being interrogated and died while in police custody.

At the time, it was claimed that Timol committed suicide by jumping through a window on the 10th floor of the notorious building.

In 1972, an inquest found that Timol had committed suicide, but the inquest was reopened in 2017 and it was found the activist was killed.

During the inquest hearing in 1972, Magistrate JL de Villiers concluded that “no living person was responsible for his death” and that Timol was treated in a civilised and humane manner by the Security Branch.

During the inquest in 2017, Judge Billy Mothle recommended the NPA probe Rodrigues for his role in Timol’s murder.

Mothle concluded there was a cover-up of Timol’s death and that he was pushed out or made to jump from the window while he was in the company of members of the Security Branch.

Mothle also ruled that Rodrigues’ former colleagues, Seth Sons and Neville Els, should be charged for perjury.

In 2018, Rodrigues was charged with murder and defeating or obstructing the administration of justice.

READ | Timol murder accused says he should benefit from amnesty for pre-1994 crimes

Rodrigues’ application for a permanent stay of prosecution was dismissed by the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg in June 2019.

On Wednesday, legal consultant for the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) Atilla Kisla said Rodrigues was seeking a permanent stay of prosecution based on the alleged violation of his constitutional rights.

“SALC was admitted by the SCA to make submissions in this matter as a friend of the court. On the basis that the indicted conduct of the appellant occurred in furtherance of apartheid, SALC submitted that the killing of Timol amounts to at least three categories of crimes against humanity.

“South Africa has a duty to investigate and prosecute crimes against humanity and that the lapse of time before prosecution cannot violate a right to a fair trial. The alleged amnesty qualifies as blanket amnesty and may not be recognised or applied in respect of crimes against humanity,” Kisla said.

The hearing will be conducted virtually.

SALC will be represented by advocates Salim Nakhjavani, Bonita Meyersfeld and Lawyers for Human Rights.

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