Rodrigues, 80, in the High court in Johannesburg, he is accused of being part of a group of policemen who murdered Ahmed Timol while he was in custody in 1971. Picture: Thembelihle Mkhonza/ANA

JOHANNESBURG - Former apartheid-era policeman, Joao Rodrigues, briefly appeared in the South Gauteng High Court on Monday, on charges relating to the 1971 murder of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol.

At the pre-trial hearing, Judge Ramarumo Monama said both Rodrigues and the State had agreed the trial would begin in January.

During his last appearance Rodrigues' legal team had filed papers to apply for a permanent stay of prosecution, which would bring the trial to a halt.

The court is yet to consider Rodrigues' application, with a date expected to be set for November.

"On the 28 January 2019 the application will have received all the attention," Monama said.

Rodrigues, 80, who was an officer in the apartheid-era police's feared security branch is accused of being part of a group of policemen who murdered Timol while he was in custody in 1971.

Timol died 47 years ago, after falling ten floors from John Vorster Square Police Station where he was in custody but his death was ruled as a suicide.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said they will oppose the application.

“As the State we will oppose such an application because in as far as the law is concerned cases such as murder and rape they don’t prescribe, and it doesn’t matter how far back the incident happened, but so long as the state finds that there is someone who can be held liable for an alleged crime, then that case will be brought to court, this one is no exception," spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said.

"His age and the duration will not hold water."

Mjonondwane said they have been ready for months ago for the trial to start. She has called on more families who suspect their loved ones were murdered by apartheid police to come forward.

Timol’s nephew Imtiaz Cajee said as the family were looking forward to the trial date set and the were really impressed with the fact that judge has been very assertive.

The court in the meantime will consider Rodrigues's application for a stay of prosecution and his bail has been extended.

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African News Agency (ANA)