Court urged to reject apartheid finding on Imam Haron’s death

Imam Abdullah Haron Photo: Supplied

Imam Abdullah Haron Photo: Supplied

Published Apr 25, 2023


The re-opened inquest into the death in police custody of Imam Abdullah Haron has been asked to overturn a previous finding absolving the state of his death.

An inquest held in 1970 found that  Haron died as a result of an alleged accidental fall down a staircase.

The re-opened inquest hearing resumed on Monday for the closing arguments by the legal teams of the family and the state and drew interest from members of the Turkish Jurists Union who were among the packed gallery.

Haron died at the hands of the notorious Security Branch on 27 September 1969 after spending 123 days in solitary confinement.

Legal representative for the Haron family, Advocate Howard Varney SC also submitted that Haron's arrest on May 26 of that year, coincided with the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, a leading figure and founder of Islam.

Varney SC submitted that Haron's death was brought about by the acts of the Security Branch and the evidence gathered exposed the "disgraceful" conduct of the medical doctors as well as "flagrant bias" of the apartheid magistrate and the prosecutor.

"The events took place more than 50 years ago  and the only versions available are that of the police. According to the police version  he died alone so there are no witnesses to his last moments. The prevailing culture of  the Security Branch saw a closing of the ranks and the concocting of fabricated versions  before the 1970 Inquest to conceal the truth of what happened".

However, Varney submitted that the legal team was satisfied that sufficient fresh evidence,  particularly the forensic one placed before the Court warranted an  overturning of the first inquest court finding.

"It is abundantly clear that the conduct of  the Security Branch caused the death of Haron. The evidence points unequivocally to  an unrelenting programme of vindictiveness and brutality that was directed against  Haron", he submitted.

He also told the court that Haron was regarded as the enemy of the state and the police treated him cruelly.

Varney also painted a picture of Haron's political involvement, saying he gave public lectures which were critical of the apartheid state's laws and was involved in the liberation of the oppressed.

He told the inquest that during the early 60s Haron became known to a Sergeant Johannes van Wyk of the Security Branch because of his active role in anti - apartheid organizations.

Van Wyk was widely referred to as "Spyker", who probably got the nickname due to allegations made against  him of driving nails under the fingers of an anti-apartheid activist.

The Security Branch was described in the inquests into the deaths of political activists including Neil Aggett and Dr Hoosen Haffejee as "bosses above bosses" and a law unto themselves.

Varney submitted that Van Wyk was involved in the interrogation of Haron.

However, all those linked to Haron's torture and death had died , causing a " terrible cost of justice delayed", he added.

Varney also dismissed evidence by the only living policeman, Johannes Burger, as "evasive" and an attempt to absolve himself of any responsibility.

"Burger's evidence must be regarded as false evidence", he submitted.

A candle was also lit in memory of one the former political detainees, Stephanie Kemp who gave evidence in the re-opened inquest.

Kemp who testified of torture by the Security Branch died on 10 Mach 2023.

The hearing continues tomorrow.

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