Johannesburg – The judge overseeing the inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol has ordered that all police officers involved in the arrest and interrogation and subsequent death testify before it.
Judge Billy Mothle said that he was of the view that their evidence would help the inquest into the death of Timol and the interrogation of Dr Salim Essop who was arrested with Timol.
The judge said he was authorised by section 8 of the inquest act 58 of 1959 to issue subpoenas.
“To the extent that such officers may still be alive, I’m authorised through the office of the national directorate of public prosecution that subpoenas must be issued for those officers to come and testify in these proceedings when we resume in our next sitting."
It emerged from the inquest's investigating officer, Captain Benjamin Nel, that only three officials involved in the Timol saga were still alive.
They are Warrant Officer N Els, who at the time was called to identify the communist documents found with Timol and Essop during their arrest, a Sergeant J Rodrigues who was a clerk at John Vorster Square, and a Sergeant JP Fourie who worked at the state mortuary and received Timol’s mortal remains.
Timol, a teacher, died in custody in 1971 and his death was ruled a suicide by authorities.
The inquest, brought by Timol’s family, aims to overturn a June 1972 ruling by magistrate JL de Villiers that Timol had committed suicide.
Timol’s family subsequently uncovered new evidence and the National Prosecuting Authority re-opened the inquest.
Earlier, Professor Kantilal Naik, who taught at the same school with Timol, told the inquest he was arrested after police suspected that he was involved in political activity. He was told that he was a troublemaker and was opposing the government.
He said police pressured him to write a statement and when they told him they were not satisfied with it, they started torturing him. He said he was punched and electrocuted.
Naik said the torturing stopped after a magistrate visited him and saw what police had done to him. He said the torture subsequently affected his handwriting.
When asked if he was ever charged, Naik said there were no charges brought against him and he was just released. However, he said he was forced to write and sign an affidavit explaining that he hadn't been tortured, otherwise he would not be allowed to leave John Vorster Square.
Timol’s younger brother, Mohammad, told the court that he was in police cells when he found out his brother had died.
“They told me, ‘Mohammad, we have bad news for you. Your brother is dead’. I asked how did he die and they told me they did not have information,” he said.
He said he was not allowed to attend his brother's funeral.
Mohammad said as a family, they never accepted that his brother had committed suicide.
“Ahmed loved life and there is no way that he would take his own life. No way. He was mentally very stable. He had an extremely strong personality. And in Islam, we don’t advocate taking one's owns life,” he said.
The matter continues on Friday with DRr Dilshad Jethan a former detainee set to testify.