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Joao Rodrigues approaches ConCourt to avoid trial for Ahmed Timol murder

Ernest Mabuza Journalist
Joao Rodrigues seeks a permanent stay of prosecution for the murder of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol. File photo.
Joao Rodrigues seeks a permanent stay of prosecution for the murder of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol. File photo.
Image: ALON SKUY

Joao Rodrigues, the former SA Police's Security Branch administrative clerk charged with the murder of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol in 1971, has approached the Constitutional Court in his bid to have a permanent stay of prosecution.

Last month, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) dismissed Rodrigues's appeal against an order made by the full bench of the high court in Pretoria in 2019 that he was not entitled to a permanent stay.

Timol died as a result of injuries sustained when he fell from the 10th floor of the offices of the Security Branch at Johannesburg's John Vorster Square police station on October 27 1971.

An inquest held in 1972 concluded that Timol had committed suicide. However, the inquest into Timol's death was reopened in 2017 and judge Billy Mothle ruled in October 2018 that Timol was killed.

The reopened inquest also said that Rodrigues, on his own version, participated in the cover up to conceal the crime of murder as an accessory after the fact of that murder.

The inquest said Rodrigues went on to commit perjury by presenting contradictory evidence before the 1972 and 2017 inquests.

Mothle recommended that Rodrigues be investigated for those offences.

After the reopened inquest, the National Prosecuting Authority charged Rodrigues with premeditated murder in 2018.

Benjamin Minnaar, an attorney who filed an affidavit before the Constitutional Court on behalf of Rodrigues, said the main issue for determination was whether the prosecution, instituted 47 years after the alleged unlawful conduct, infringes Rodrigues's right to a fair trial.

The applicant is in his 80s now. There is possibility that the applicant will not be in a position to properly conduct his defence in this matter.
Benjamin Minnaar, attorney for Joao Rodrigues

Minnaar said this includes Rodrigues's right to have the trial begin and be conducted without unreasonable delay.

He said the SCA misdirected itself in agreeing with the full bench that the period between 1971 to 1984 of delay was a pre-democratic era delay and should not be taken into account in the determination of the delay.

The SCA also misdirected itself, he said, when it found that the period of eight years, between 1994 and 2002, was beyond the control of the prosecution, largely through the operation of the Truth and Reconciliation Act.

Minnaar also took issue with the finding by the SCA that despite political interference, which stopped the prosecution of apartheid-era crimes between 2003 and 2018, there was no evidence showing that the substantial fairness of the trial was tainted.

“The objective facts are that approximately 50 years have passed since the alleged crime and that the applicant is in his 80s now. There is possibility that the applicant will not be in a position to properly conduct his defence in this matter.”

Minnaar said Rodrigues was an at advanced age and suffered from a continuously deteriorating health and memory.

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