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Ahmed TImol case breakthrough 45 years later

NPA agrees to re-open inquest into death of Ahmed Timol

"After decades of struggle by the Timol family and human rights activists, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced on 25 October 2016 that it would reopen the inquest into the death of Ahmed Timol."

- Statement from Ahmed Timol Family Trust

This year on October 24th is 45 years since the death of Ahmed Timol, former teacher and member of the ANC and SACP. Timol is famous in Johannesburg folk lore for the dramatic nature of his death. He fell to his death out of a window on the 10th floor of John Vorster Square police station, becoming the first detainee to die in police custody at this notorious apartheid-era torture centre. An inquest into his death in 1972, where the family was represented by George Bizos, the state concluded that Timol’s death was a suicide.


It wasn’t long before security police started referring to the 10th floor as "Timol Heights" and used the chilling term "Indians can't fly" to mock his fate. 


It was hoped that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission would lead to information on what happened that fateful day. However nothing more was revealed except the mourning and loss of his family as can be seen in his mother’s testimony to the TRC.


Now over 40 years later Judge Billy Mothle ruled that Timol was pushed by members of the Security Branch. The judgement and reopening the inquest may lead to other families who's relatives died in detention opening inquests.


Read the transcript of Ahmed Timol's mother



Detention without trial became a permanent feature of South African law in 1963. The General Laws Amendments Act allowed detention for 90 days, then for 180 days. By 1990, 78 000 had been in custody of whom 73 died and when they died cause of death was investigated and established by the courts. In 33 instances inquests proclaimed these deaths suicides."

Episode 3, first broadcast on 5 May 1996

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