S.Africa prosecutors charge miners with murder
JOHANNESBURG, (Reuters) – South African prosecutors yesterday charged 270 striking miners with murder of 34 co-workers seen being shot dead in a hail of police bullets captured in videos broadcast around the world.
Prosecution have filed papers invoking a measure called “common purpose” seldom used since the dying days of apartheid, arguing the miners were complicit in the killings since they were arrested at the scene with weapons.
Legal experts said the move will likely collapse when a court hearing bail applications for the 270 near the mine resumes sessions next week and lambasted prosecutors for inflaming a tense situation by seeking a mass indictment that will eventually be rejected.
“This is bizarre and shocking and represents a flagrant abuse of the criminal justice system in an effort to protect the police and/or politicians,” Pierre de Vos, a law expert at the University of Cape Town, wrote in a blog entry.
“The apartheid state often used this provision to secure a criminal conviction against one or more of the leaders of a protest march, or against leaders of struggle organisations like the ANC.”
President Jacob Zuma and his ruling African National Congress have faced increasing pressure over the killings, which are the deadliest security incident since apartheid ended in 1994, with many saying the government may be more concerned about protecting its own than miners in shafts.
The government has launched a probe into the killings, including the deaths of 10 people ahead of the shooting at Lonmin’s Marikana mine, northwest of Johannesburg.