Lawyers ready with closing arguments at reopened inquest into death of Imam Haron

Imam Haron, Mosque Library 1967. Picture: Haron Foundation

Imam Haron, Mosque Library 1967. Picture: Haron Foundation

Published Apr 21, 2023


Cape Town - Lawyers for the family of anti-apartheid Struggle activist Imam Abdullah Haron, who died in police custody in September 1969, are set to present closing arguments in the Western Cape High Court on Monday, where the reopened inquest will be heard.

An update from the Foundation for Human Rights, which helped push for the reopening of the inquest, said the National Prosecuting Authority and the lawyers representing the Haron family had exchanged heads of argument in preparation for Monday’s hearing.

Imam Haron, as imam at the Stegman Road Mosque in Claremont, was increasingly critical of the then-South African government’s apartheid policies.

On May 28, 1969, Haron was detained and charged with terrorism.

He was kept in solitary confinement for 123 days and subjected to daily interrogations and likely torture before he died on September 27, 1969.

An initial inquest in 1970 ruled that Haron had fallen to his death by accident. In May 2022, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola formally requested the Judge President of the Western Cape High Court to designate a judge to reopen the inquest.

The reopened inquest was heard between November 7 and 18 last year by Judge Daniel Thulare.

Judge Daniel Thulare. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

When the matter adjourned, the court had received testimony and affidavits from 16 people, including experts and members of the family.

The expert witnesses who testified included aeronautical engineer Tivash Moodley, who gave evidence based on his technical assessment report of Haron’s alleged fall at the Caledon Square police station, now known as the Cape Town Central police station.

Specialist forensic pathologist Professor Steve Naidoo testified about the extensive injuries seen all over Haron’s body, and consultant forensic pathologist Dr Itumeleng Molefe cast doubt on the thoroughness of the post-mortem report written by pioneering forensic pathologist Professor Theodor Schwär following Haron’s death.

Dr Steve Naidoo testifying on behalf of the family on Day 5 of the Imam Haron Inquest. Picture: Ian Landsberg

Other witnesses were former political detainee and deputy minister of public works Jeremy Cronin, psychoanalyst and co-author of the book

Diane Sandler and former Robben Island prisoner and Security Branch detention victim Robert Wilcox.

Also taking the stand at the inquest were veteran anti-apartheid activist Yousuf Gabru, who was detained and tortured by the Security Branch’s notorious Johannes “Spyker” van Wyk, former political prisoner Shirley Gunn and former SACP and ANC member Stephanie Kemp, who died aged 81 in March this year.

The inquest also heard from retired police captain Johannes Burger, who said he found Haron dead in his cell at Maitland police station, and the investigating officer for the reopened inquest, Daniel Petersen.

Members of the family who testified included the eldest of the three Haron children, Shamela Haron-Shamis, Haron’s son Professor Muhammed Haron, Imam Haron’s niece Zainal Makda and the imam’s grandson, filmmaker Khalid Shamis.

The Imam’s last-born daughter, Fatiema Haron-Masoet, was the last to testify and in her testimony, which brought tears to many eyes in the court, she spoke about the trauma of growing up in the knowledge that her father had been killed by the apartheid state.

Family of Imam Abdullah Haron at the Cape Town Central police station, where he was detained for three months and also allegedly fell down the stairs and injured himself. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

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