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Prosecutors on Thursday charged 270 striking miners with the murder of 34 co-workers, seen being shot dead in a hail of police bullets, captured in video footage broadcast around the world.
Prosecution have filed papers invoking a measure called “common purpose” seldom used since the dying days of apartheid. Their argument is that the miners were complicit in the killings since they were arrested at the scene with weapons.
Legal experts said the move would probably collapse when a court, hearing bail applications for the 270 near the mine, resumes sessions next week. They lambasted prosecutors for inflaming a tense situation by seeking a mass indictment that will eventually be rejected.
“This is bizarre and shocking and represents a flagrant abuse of the criminal justice system in an effort to protect the police and/or politicians,” Pierre de Vos, a law expert at the University of Cape Town, wrote in a blog entry.
“The apartheid state often used this provision to secure a criminal conviction against one or more of the leaders of a protest march, or against leaders of Struggle organisations like the ANC.” – Reuters