Page 2, 28th August 1970

28th August 1970
Page 2
Page 2, 28th August 1970 — Conspiracy trial reopened in South Africa

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Locations: Pretoria


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Conspiracy trial reopened in South Africa


THE trial recommenced in Pretoria on Monday of 15 men and five women who are accused of a joint conspiracy as members of the African National Congress of South Africa to overthrow the South Arican Government.

Nineteen of the accused were arrested, along with an unknown number of other opponents of apartheid, in May-June 1969. They were detained tinder the Terrorism Act, whereby the police are not obliged to inform even the families of those who have been detained.

In December 1969, after six months of solitary confinement and brutal interrogation, they were tried before the South African Supreme Court under the Suppression of Communism Act.

Three months later, the prosecution withdrew the charges and all 22 were acquitted, only to be immediately re-detained under the Terrorism Act. In spite of much public protest in South Africa, they have again been held "incommunicado" and in solitary confinement. They are now being retried on charges substantially the same as those of which they were acquitted last year.


Three people arrested at the same time last year have died in detention. Although no inquest has been published, the Minister of Police has said in Parliament that one had committed suicide. Another had "fallen down a flight of stairs" and the third had died of "natural causes."

At their last trial, the accused filed a series of affidavits alleging that they had been tortured by their interrogators and seeking the court's protection. Mr. Justice Theron ruled that the matter was ''not urgent".

The 20th accused in the present trial is Benjamin Ramotse. He has been in detention since July 1968. but until he was charged this year no one, including his wife, knew of his whereabouts. He has filed an affidavit before the court alleging that he was originally arrested by Rhodesian police just inside Zambia.

ELECTRIC SHOCKS He says that back in Rhodesia he was stripped naked, chained to a cell floor, beaten and given electric shocks. He was then taken to Pretoria by South African police and "mercilessly tortured" by Major T. Swanepoel.

Three months after his arrest he was again taken to Rhodesia, and, he says, accompanied by Major Swanepoel, he flew in a Rhodesian helicopter over Rhodesian and Zambian territory. where he pointed certain things out to the Major. He was then taken back to Pretoria.

Next Monday the trial begins of 22 white South Africans held since last May, who took part in a banned demonstration protesting against the detention of the Africans now on trial. Among them is a Catholic priest, Fr. Cosmas Desmond, who has written a book called The Discarded People. It is a damning study of the Bantustans, the areas reserved for the Africans.

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