Dates set for Ahmed Timol inquest, 45 years after his death in police custody

Priority is to have 'apartheid era inquest finding of 'nobody to blame' reversed

Dates set for Ahmed Timol inquest, 45 years after his death in police custody

30 May 2017

Cape Town – A judge has been appointed to oversee the inquest that was reopened into the death of teacher and anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol, who died in police custody 45 years ago.

The Judge President of the South Gauteng High Court has appointed Judge Billy Mothle, the Ahmed Timol Family Trust and the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) said on Tuesday.

The inquest will be held at the High Court between June 26 and June 30, and then resume between July 24 and August 4, and August 10 and 11.

"Our immediate priority is to have the apartheid era inquest finding of 'nobody to blame' reversed," said Timol’s nephew Imtiaz Ahmed Cajee.

"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 growing up and that they were going to do this for her. My grandmother has since passed away, but she will be smiling at the news of the reopening of the inquest."

After being ruled a suicide in 1972, a private investigation launched by Timol's family uncovered new evidence which it presented to the National Prosecuting Authority, asking for the inquest to be reopened.

The Roodepoort teacher's loved ones did not believe Timol, the 22nd person to die in police custody, had jumped from the 10th floor of John Vorster Square while being interrogated by security police.

"It wasn't in his character to give up. They believe he was either tortured to death and thrown from the window, or pushed," the trust said previously.

"But despite the presentation of medical evidence of gruesome torture, the magistrate who conducted the inquest at the height of apartheid bought the security police version that they had treated Timol compassionately, and found that nobody could be held responsible for his death."

Timol's death

Timol left South Africa in December 1966 to perform Hajj in Saudi Arabia and moved on to London where he linked up with his exiled friends, Essop and Aziz Pahad.

He underwent political training at the Lenin School in the Soviet Union in 1969, accompanied by Thabo Mbeki and Anne Nicholson. He returned to SA in 1970, where he built underground structures for the banned ANC and SACP.

"On the evening of October 22, 1971, Timol - accompanied by medical student, Saleem Essop - were stopped at a police roadblock in Coronationville. Timol and Saleem were taken to the Newlands Police Station where they were separated and later taken to the John Vorster Square police station.

"Four days and 19 hours later, police alleged that Timol jumped to his death. By then, Essop was in hospital after being tortured to an inch of his life," the trust said.

The Ditsong Museum in Pretoria will host an Ahmed Timol exhibition from July 5.