Anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol, who died in 1971, was murdered, the North Gauteng High Court inquest found on Thursday.
The reopened inquest into the death of Timol found that he did not commit suicide. The court instead concluded that Timol died after he was assaulted, tortured and pushed out of the window on the tenth floor or from the roof of John Vorster Square Police Station.
Judge Billy Mothle made his ruling in front of a packed court.
Handing down his ruling, Mothle said: “Timol didn’t meet his death through suicide, he met it through murder …”
The judge said that all concerned members of the security branch were responsible for Timol’s injuries. He said that they tortured him in an attempt to extract information while in detention at John Vorster Square Police Station, now renamed Johannesburg Central Police Station.
In the initial inquest more than four decades ago, the magistrate identified Timol as an Asian. However, Mothle said Timol will now be identified as a South African citizen to restore his dignity.
Mothle said former police officer Neville Els, who claimed he never witnessed any torture on detainees during his stint at John Vorster, should be investigated for misleading the court.
Former security police officer Joao Rodriguez, 78, who claimed he was the last person to see Timol alive and jump out of the window, will be investigated for perjury.
Mothle said Rodriguez misled both inquests in 1972 and 2017. The first inquest found that Timol had committed suicide by jumping through the window to his death ten floors below.
However, the anti-apartheid activist’s family fought a long and spirited battle to have the inquest reopened because they believed that Timol’s death was not suicide and that a crime most foul had been covered up.
The judge on Thursday said Rodriguez was an accessory to murder and that he had participated in a deliberate cover up of Timol’s death.
Timol was arrested with his friend Dr Salim Essop on 22 October 1971 after a car they were travelling in was stopped by apartheid police. Banned South African Communist Party and African National Congress literature was found in the car.
He died five days later while in police detention.