The testimony of former Security Branch police interrogator Nicholas Deetlefs has come under intense scrutiny at the inquest into the 1982 death in detention of anti-apartheid activist Dr Neil Aggett. Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso /African News Agency (ANA)
The testimony of former Security Branch police interrogator Nicholas Deetlefs has come under intense scrutiny at the inquest into the 1982 death in detention of anti-apartheid activist Dr Neil Aggett. Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso /African News Agency (ANA)

Neil Aggett inquest: Nicholas Deetlefs to face prosecution

By SIVIWE FEKETHA Time of article published Feb 21, 2020

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Johannesburg - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has added its weight to plans to criminally prosecute former Security Branch police officer Nick Deetlefs over his possible role in the death of anti-apartheid activist Dr Neil Aggett.

The NPA indicated this on Thursday as Deetlefs, who is accused of having tortured many political activists held in detention during apartheid, was wrapping up his testimony under cross-examination at the re-opened inquest into Aggett’s death in 1982.

Aggett was found hanging in his cell at the John Vorster Square police station after days of interrogation and torture, although no police officer was found to have played a role in his death by a previous inquest.

The NPA’s Jabulani Mlotshwa said Deetlefs, who was among the Security Branch officers who interrogated Aggett, could not be trusted with his contradictory and “false evidence” as he had admitted to lying under oath at the inquest, and in the case of assault in which he was charged with striking ANC stalwart Barbara Hogan.

“In two previous court appearances where you lied, the courts relied on your word. You want this court to also rely on your word,” Mlotshwa said.

Deetlefs denied having tortured Aggett, and instead claimed that they had built a good relationship during the six hours in which he had interrogated him, adding that this had resulted in Aggett confessing to illegal activities and exposing his comrades, something he had up until then refused to do during three months of detention.

Mlotshwa grilled Deetlefs, who is alleged to have subjected political detainees to severe torture, on how he was able to make Aggett confess within six hours without assaulting him.

“You see, (chief interrogator) Lieutenant Steve Whitehead had Aggett for some three months and he was not achieving any success, and you say you achieved in six hours what he could not in those three months,” Mlotshwa said. “So he was under pressure to get results. He hatched a plan and used the Saturday evening when no one was in the office, and brought you in.”

He said the NPA was planning to charge Deetlefs for his possible role in the Aggett saga and for torturing Hogan. “I can tell you that the NPA is considering charging you, but most definitely you will be charged with torturing Barbara Hogan,” Mlotshwa said.

Former activists allegedly tortured by Deetlefs and lawyers for Aggett’s family have also accused him of lying “pathologically” during his evidence.

Aggett family lawyer Howard Varney said that they would also push for his prosecution.

Concluding his testimony, Deetlefs denied the accusations, saying that while he had lied about assaulting activists, he had no reason to continue lying.

“I am not a healthy person and I have repented, and I would feel very guilty if I lied now,” he said.

Aggett is one of 89 political detainees who died under questionable circumstances before 1994, and for which no apartheid police officer has been held responsible.

Political Bureau

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