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Why the truth about the death of anti-apartheid activist matters

From Al Jazeera - October 13, 2017

Durban, South Africa - For almost 50 years, they claimed he had jumped to his death.

On Thursday, 46 years later, the Pretoria High Court put the matter to rest. Judge Billy Mothle ruled that Ahmed Timol, an anti-apartheid activist, had not jumped out the window of the 10th floor of a police station in Johannesburg.

Timol, 29 at the time, had been pushed out.

"Timol did not jump out of the window of room 1026 but was either pushed out of the window or from the roof of the John Vorster Police Station," Mothle said. "Thus he did not commit suicide but was murdered.

"The sub-standard and sloppy manner in which the investigation of Timol's death was conducted, supposed the view that there was clear intent to cover up the incident through a fabricated version of suicide."

Following the judgement, Mothle ordered that Sergeant Jan Rodrigues, considered the last person to have seen Timol alive and who admitted to being part of a cover-up, be investigated for murder.

Who was Ahmed Timol?

Timol was an anti-apartheid activist from Johannesburg. He was a school teacher and a member of the South African Communist Party. After threats to his safety, Timol fled to London in 1967, and he later underwent armed training in Moscow before returning to South Africa as part of the ANC's armed wing.

He was subsequently picked up by the security branch in October 1971, and interrogated, tortured and murdered at the notorious John Vorster Police Station in central Johannesburg.

Between 1970 and 1990, eight people who were detained at the police station died. It has been described by former detainees as the "pinnacle of torture chambers".

An inquest in 1972 concluded that Timol had committed suicide, a stance the apartheid government has consistently held. Timol's family never accepted that version and have consistently accused the apartheid government of murder.

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