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Justice at last for Timol – now for Kriel, Haron

The families of Imam Abdullah Haron and Ashley Kriel have welcomed the ruling by Judge Billy Mothle in the North Gauteng High Court yesterday that freedom fighter Ahmed Timol was murdered by police in custody.

“We are happy for the Timol family. His nephew did an amazing and an honourable thing to help their family find closure,” said Haron’s daughter Fatiema Haron-Masoet.

“Now the truth can be documented in history.”

Haron was a prominent community leader, revolutionary and inter-faith pioneer in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1971 apartheid security police lied that Timol had committed suicide by jumping from the 10th floor of the John Vorster Square police station.

Haron was reported dead after spending four months in police detention in 1969. At the time police lied that the injuries he sustained were from falling down a flight of stairs at the Maitland police station.

Mourners pay their last respects to Ahmed Timol. Picture: Ahmed Timol Family Trust

An autopsy report later revealed 28 unexplained bruises on Haron’s body inconsistent with falling down stairs, haematoma (internal bleeding) near the base of the spine, an empty stomach and that his seventh rib was broken.

Last month marked the 48th anniversary of his killing.

Haron’s grandson, Khalid Shamis, said: “I am very happy for the Timol family, now they have some clarity in the eyes of the law even though they always knew the truth.

“It also brings this story into the public realm again for new generations to know.”

Haron-Masoet told the Cape Times last night: “Despite the fact that the State admitted that there were bruises on his body they could not account for, they still said there was no foul play.”

She said the family would come together to discuss how the Timol ruling would make possible the reopening of an inquest into the death of her father.

“We will have to think about this clearly and discuss it as a family,” she said.

Her biggest concern was the wellbeing of her 91-year-old mother Galiema, as she was frail and bedridden.

“Part of me feels we need to reopen the case to bring closure to us as a family, while a part of me is concerned for my mom’s health and the trauma it will bring her to relive what happened to my father,” she said.

Imam Abdullah Haron at a mosque library in 1967. Picture: Haron Foundation

Another concern was that her older brother Muhammed was a resident in Botswana and her sister Shamela lived in London, which would leave her to deal with the trial and the well-being of her mother on her own.

Galiema Haron was quoted in an art installation by Haroon Gunn-Salie as saying that when she went to identify her husband’s body, it seemed that half of his face was crying, while the other half was smiling.

A handcuffed Kriel, from Bonteheuwel, a guerrilla trained in Angola with Umkhonto we Sizwe, was fatally shot in the back aged 20 in Athlone by apartheid security branch policeman Jeffrey Benzien in 1987.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission granted Benzien amnesty in 1999 despite him not admitting to murder, but claiming self-defence.

Yesterday, his family said it was time those who killed their brother be dealt with.

Kriel’s sister, Michel Assure, said: “I feel this was a great victory for the Timol family and I wish them all the best further in the case.”

Assure said the NPA had reopened Kriel’s case about a year ago but the matter was “dragging”.

“We want to do whatever it takes to get my brother’s killer brought to book before he dies. He never repented, he even lied at the TRC,” she said.

Assure said all affected families should stand together to get justice for their lost loved ones.

Last night she spoke at an Ashley Kriel Memorial Lecture delivered by Jenine van Rooy at Community House in Salt River at a hall named in her brother’s honour. She said: “Let Ashley’s story be an inspiration to young people. He was a peace-loving person and respected gender equality.”

This year is the 30th anniversary of his killing.

Imtiaz Cajee, the nephew of Ahmed Timol, said: “Finally after four decades we reached a milestone. But once again it was another opportunity for the security branch officers to come out and say what really happened but they refused. We still seek answers, we want the truth to give us closure.”

Cajee said the family felt the officers still alive involved in the death of his uncle should “face the full wrath of the law”.

He said the family received support from the Human Rights Commission.

“I made an application to the commission in January 2016 to ask their assistance with our request to the National Prosecuting Authority to reopen the inquest into my uncle’s death.

“They helped us with everything, including covering all the legal costs,” Cajee said.

Judge Mothle said the inquest also revealed that there were about 65 other deaths in custody. Their families were also seeking closure on unanswered questions regarding the death of their family members while in apartheid police detention. 

The judge said the Human Rights Commission working in consultation with law enforcements agencies “should be sufficiently resourced to take on the task” of assisting families to obtain and gather further information for their initial inquest to be reopened. 

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said: “The first step in justice is an inquest and that inquest has come up with a judgment.

“At least there is more clarity on the issue, on what happened and being clear as to Timol not committing suicide. The second step is how can we support the family.”

Mantashe said as a society “I want us to distance ourselves from putting financial values to the lives of people”.

“This notion of money for everything is actually going to corrupt a society that’s already corrupted,” he said.

He said that reports that the ANC did not support the family were untrue and that there were teams present during the inquest

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