BREAKTHROUGH IN AHMED TIMOL CASE 45 YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH IN POLICE CUSTODY ~ OCTOBER 26, 2016
Statement from the Ahmed Timol Family Trust. 26 October 2016
BREAKTHROUGH IN AHMED TIMOL CASE 45 YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH IN POLICE CUSTODY
NPA agrees to re-open inquest into death of Ahmed Timol
After decades of struggle by the Timol family and human rights activists, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced on 25 October 2016 that it would reopen the inquest into the death of Ahmed Timol.
The original inquest found in 1972 that nobody was to blame for Timol’s death. The Magistrate concluded that Timol had not been maltreated during his detention and had committed suicide. Following a private investigation launched on behalf of the family fresh evidence was placed before the NPA, which suggested that the Magistrate had erred in issuing such findings. The family requested that the inquest be reopened to examine Timol’s death afresh. After considering this evidence the NPA agreed that there was compelling evidence necessitating the reopening of the inquest in the interest of justice.” 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.
Members of the family, close friends and comrades of Roodepoort teacher and anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol never believed that he committed suicide by jumping from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square while under interrogation 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.
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. It was obviously suicide, Magistrate De Villiers found in June 1972, and there the matter has officially lain for nearly 45 years.
Until yesterday, when National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams wrote to Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha requesting that the Judge President of the Gauteng High Court appoints a judge to re-open the inquest.
Confirming Abrahams’ request to Minister Masutha, Dr JP Pretorius of the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit informed the Timol family: “We are of the opinion that there is compelling evidence that necessitates the re-opening of the inquest in the interest of justice.”
Timol was the 22nd person to die in police custody, and many more were to follow. Responding to the NPA’s decision to pursue reopening the inquest, Timol’s nephew, Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee, said he hoped the family of Neil Aggett would get similarly good news soon. He paid tribute to Timol’s mother, Hawa Timol, who appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1996 to plea for the case to be reopened. “My grandmother has since passed away, but she will be smiling in heaven today,” Cajee said.
Cajee said the Timol family sought the reopening of the inquest in order to have the finding of “nobody to blame” reversed. Following intensive investigations, the family was persuaded that members of the Security Branch of the erstwhile South African Police were responsible for the death. Substantive information had been forwarded to the Head of the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit of the National Prosecution Authority, Cajee said.
Cajee is presently working on the second edition of his book, Timol: The Elusive Truth. He said reopening the inquest would provide critical insight into events on the last days of his uncle’s life – 45 years ago, tomorrow. 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?
To commemorate the 45th anniversary of Timol’s death, Cajee will be in Ginsberg, King Williams Town, at the Steve Biko Foundation, where the Ahmed Timol Exhibition will be opening tomorrow. Biko was brutally murdered in police detention in 1977. It is hoped that the re-opening of the Timol Inquest will set precedent for other families to follow suit.
On the 30 October 2016, the ANC Abaqulusi Region will be hosting a memorial lecture for Timol at the Princess La Dluli Community Hall, Magengeni Area. A Ceremony for the renaming of the Branch to the Ahmed Timol Branch will also be taking place. The Dr Yusuf Dadoo Primary School will be screening the SAFTA winning documentary, Indians Can’t Fly, on 12 November 2016.
* Ahmed Timol was a school teacher at the Roodepoort Indian High School. He left South Africa in December 1966 to perform the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, and moved on to London where he linked up with his exiled friends, Essop and Aziz Pahad. A decision was made by the Central Committee of the Communist Part that Timol would undergo his political training at the Lenin School in the Soviet Union in 1969, accompanied by Thabo Mbeki and Anne Nicholson. Timol returned to South Africa in 1970, and proceeded to build underground structures for the banned ANC and SACP. He was successful in distributing propaganda material by mailing lists throughout the country for a period of 18 months. On the evening of 22 October 1971, Timol accompanied by medical student, Saleem Essop, were stopped at a police roadblock in Coronationville. Timol and Saleem Essop 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.
This statement was released for the Ahmed Timol Family Trust by Oryx Media. For further information, please contact IMTIAZ AHMED CAJEE
This video by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) shows Hawa Timol, mother of Ahmed Timol delivering her testimony on Ahmed Timol during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings on human rights violations on 30 April 1996. This video is included in “Between Life and Death: Stories from John Vorster Square” – a DVD produced as part of this project. Included in SAHA online exhibition – ‘Between Life and Death: Stories from John Vorster Square
TIMOL – A QUEST FOR JUSTICE, Imtiaz Cajee
ISBN 1 – 919855-40-8
The book titled, TIMOL – A QUEST FOR JUSTICE, by Imtiaz Cajee was officially launched at the former John Vorster Square Police Station, now Johannesburg Central Police Station on 29th January 2005. Additional book launches were held in Azaadville, Cape Town, Durban Canada and the United Kingdom. Copies of the book can be obtained by sending mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
The Hidden Truth:
TIMOL – THE QUEST FOR THE TRUTH
There is sufficient evidence to indicate that my uncle’s activities were monitored at the Teacher’s Training College and later during the years he spent teaching at Roodepoort Indian High School. There was an active network of informants in the community that would undoubtedly have contributed to his eventual demise.
That he stayed in London with banned activists was known to the security branch and shared with British intelligence. And there are reports that the Lenin University he attended for political training in 1969 had been infiltrated by the CIA.
His return to South Africa in February 1970 and setting up of underground structures for the banned Communist Party was known to the Security Branch and BOSS (Bureau of State Security). His communications with London through secret coded text messages were intercepted indicating that his operation was compromised.
The police claimed he was arrested at a routine police roadblock, However, evidence proves that an order of arrest had been granted by the Commissioner of the Police.
I am eternally grateful to all those who assisted me with the publication of TIMOL – QUEST FOR JUSTICE. Without their assistance, this book would not have been published and book launches held nationally and internationally. However, the story of my Uncle is not complete. History cannot judge me as the nephew who wrote the unfinished story. The truth has become a pebble in my shoe and my Quest for the Truth continues….
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