Ahmed Timol

Johannesburg - The quest to uncover apartheid's suspicious deaths and disappearances could be given a boost with next week's reopening of the inquest into the death of activist Ahmed Timol.

Timol died in police custody in October 1971 at the notorious John Vorster Square, currently Johannesburg police station, after being arrested along with his comrade and friend Salim Essop, when they were both caught with banned ANC and SACP literature in the car they were travelling in.

The apartheid police said Timol committed suicide when he "jumped" out of the window of the police station's 10th floor.

However, according to the family, during the washing of Timol's body for Muslim burial rites, they observed that his neck was broken, his fingernails taken out and his elbow was burnt.

An inquest was opened by the apartheid State, where a Mgistrate De Villiers ruled in June 1972 that Timol had commicommitted suicide and details of his alleged brutal torture were omitted.

This is what the family seeks to overturn with next week's inquest starting on Monday at the High Court in Joburg.

Judge Billy Mothle will oversee the reopened inquest, where the final dates will be August 10 and 11.

Family spokesperson Imtiaz Cajee, who is Timol's maternal nephew, said the case reopening aims to get dignity for Timol's mother; Cajee's maternal grandmother.

"My grandmother was humiliated by Magistrate De Villiers and branded a liar when she testified how a security branch officer told her that she had not given her son a hiding when he was growing up and that they were going to do this for her," Cajee said.

He added that this inquest, should it have a positive outcome for them, will be a milestone which opens up other cases of apartheid mysterious murders and disappearances.

This case is supported by the Foundation for Human Rights, and involves three investigators and more than 10 witness, including esteemed Lawyer Gearge Bizos.

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The Star