John Vorster Square revisited as Timol inquest reopened

27 June 2017 - 16:57 By Ernest Mabuza

The reopened inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol on Tuesday afternoon visited the scene of his death in October 1971 - John Vorster Square police station.

The police station‚ now known as Johannesburg Central‚ was the scene where Timol fell to his death from the 10th floor of the building.

An inquest which was held in 1972 found that Timol had committed suicide.

However‚ Timol's family asked for the inquest to be reopened because new information had come to light.

Salim Essop‚ the man who was arrested with Timol on October 22‚ 1971‚ testified at the inquest on Monday and Tuesday.

He could not testify at the original inquest in 1972 because he was in custody following his arrest with Timol at a roadblock in Johannesburg.

Essop was charged with furthering the aims of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party and of endangering the maintenance of law and order. He was sentenced to a five-year prison term and released in 1977.

Essop on Tuesday led an inspection of the police station where he pointed out the rooms where he said he had been tortured.

Following his arrest at a roadblock with Timol‚ they were taken to the Newlands Police Station‚ where they were separated.

Essop was then sent to the Johannesburg Central Police Station‚ where he told the inquest he was tortured non-stop for about four days. He was then hospitalised before being sent to prison to await trial.

During his testimony‚ Essop said he saw a man at the Johannesburg Central Police Station whose head was covered in a hood on the 10th floor of the building around October 25 1971. He said he was sure it was Timol.

During the visit to the police station‚ Essop pointed out the two rooms where he was tortured.

He first showed inquest Judge Billy Mothle the room on the 9th floor where he was initially interrogated.

He described the initial assault on the 9th floor.

"One policeman went wild. He just kicked me and pushed me around."

Essop then took the judge across the passageway leading to the stairs to the 9th floor.

He then took the judge to Room 1013 where he described how he was assaulted and tortured for about four days.

He also told the judge how he saw a person who looked like Timol being assisted across the passageway from the washroom to Room 1026‚ where Timol was being interrogated. Essop testified that this must have been on October 25.

Essop said he could see the person from his room which was open at the time.

That is the last time Essop saw Timol.

"There was a kind of hood on Ahmed's head‚" Essop said as he demonstrated how Timol was being assisted to an interrogation room.

Timol died on October 27.

The inquest then moved to Room 1026 to look at the reconstructed room where Timol was interrogated.

Mothle thanked the people who attended the inspection.

The inquest continues in the high court in Johannesburg on Wednesday‚ when veteran human rights lawyer George Bizos SC is expected to testify.

 

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