31 July 2017
Statement from the Ahmed Timol Family Trust
TIMOL INQUEST: IT’S TIME TO HEAR FROM THE POLICE
Evidence of assault and torture was heard last week
The re-opened inquest into the death in detention of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol 46 years ago enters its third week today with the cross examination of former members of the police.
According to the police version of events, Timol was well-treated during his detention and interrogation, and committed suicide by jumping from a 10th floor window.
Magistrate De Villiers, who conducted the original inquest, used words such as “honest and trustworthy” and “reliable” to describe the security policemen who appeared before him at the inquest.
He said that “murder, in view of the testimony given, is excluded and even considering it is ludicrous”.
“In accordance with the testimony he was a valuable find that the police wanted to keep. What I said about murder is also applicable to the possibility that the deceased accidentally fell out of the window. To accept anything other than that the deceased jumped out of the window and fell to the ground, can only be seen as ludicrous,” he said.
Evidence presented last week to the re-opened inquest by forensic pathologists and a trajectory expert, among others, told a different story.
Timol had been assaulted to the brink of death prior to falling from the building, he would have been physically incapable of diving through the window – and the shape of the window, orientation of the body and trajectory of the fall pointed to his having been dropped from the roof, the expert witnesses said.
Warrant Officer Neville Els (80) was only peripherally involved with Timol’s detention, but has been subpoenaed to give evidence about security police interrogation techniques.
On the police version of events, Sergeant Joao (Jan) Rodrigues (76) was the only policeman in the room with Timol when he opened the 10th floor window and dived through. Rodrigues was stationed at Security Police Headquarters in Pretoria, where he did clerical work.
He happened to be in Room 1026 that day, to bring paychecks to members of Timol’s interrogation team. With the paychecks, he brought a tray of coffee for the team, including a cup for Timol, Rodrigues said.
The interrogators left the room, asking him to guard their prisoner. The next thing Timol was heading for the window. “it was nearly one movement, the opening and diving out of the window,” Magistrate De Villiers summed up Rodrigues’ testimony.
Two days before the Magistrate pronounced his ruling exonerating the police from any wrongdoing, investigator for the Timol family, Frank Dutton, told the inquest last week, Rodrigues received a Letter of Commendation for “service to the State” from Commissioner of Police, General GJ Joubert.
Informing the court that Rodrigues’ police file included reference to a 1956 perjury conviction, and 300 days of sick leave, Dutton said: “His letter of commendation as well as his certificate of service which described his police service as ‘exemplary’ with an ‘unblemished record’ seems wholly irrational to me,” Dutton said,
The State agreed to re-open the Timol inquest after being presented with new evidence following further investigation by the Timol family. The inquest is sitting in Room 2D at the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Pretoria. Judge Billy Mothle is presiding. Judge Mothle must decide whether anyone can be held responsible for Timol’s death.
To date, no policemen have been held accountable for any of the 73 deaths in detention that occurred between 1963 and 1990.
Besides former members of the police, other witnesses expected to testify this week include Timol’s nephew Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee, the driving force behind the family’s case to re-investigate the death, and former cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils, a comrade of Timol’s in the South African Communist Party.
Distributed by Oryx Media.