South Africa: 4 cops granted bail for apartheid-era killing

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A South African court granted bail Friday to four former policemen charged with murdering an anti-apartheid activist in 1983, prosecutors said.

The men were granted bail of nearly $320 each on condition that they do not interfere with witnesses, said National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku. Their next court appearance is on March 29, when the case will be moved to a higher court, he said.

The four were members of the apartheid-era security forces linked to the torture and disappearance of 23-year-old Nokuthula Simelane. Her body has not been found.

“We firmly believe on the strength of the evidence we’ve analyzed that we can reasonably prosecute,” Mfaku told the Associated Press.

The case is one more than 300 recommended for legal action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. After apartheid ended in 1994, the commission, headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, investigated past atrocities and granted amnesty to some accused perpetrators who fully confessed.

Three of the men applied for amnesty for Simelane’s kidnapping but not for her murder, prosecutors said. The commission recommended legal action in 2002 but the case only reached prosecution after the young woman’s family approached the court. Mfaku said the case was delayed by bureaucracy and a lack of resources.

The men have denied killing Simelane, who operated as a courier for the armed wing of the then-banned African National Congress when she was snatched by the police. After torturing her for weeks, the officers told the commission that they had succeeded in “turning” Simelane, convincing her to work as a police informant.

The men indicated that anti-apartheid fighters might have eliminated Simelane themselves.

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