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Dog attack trial opens in S. Africa

PRETORIA, South Africa -- Six white policemen have gone on trial in South Africa for allegedly setting their dogs on three black immigrants.

A video of the alleged mauling shocked the nation and was shown on television screens around the world.

The policemen face charges of assault with intent to carry out grievous bodily harm, attempting to defeat the ends of justice, and corruption.

Two of them Jacobus Petrus Smith, 31, and Lodewyk Christiaan Koch, 32, pleaded guilty on Monday to three charges of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, Reuters reported.

The other two, Robert Benjamin Henzen, 32, and Eugene Werner Truter, 28, pleaded guilty to three charges of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and also to one charge of attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

The four said in their pleas that the 1998 incident was an exercise aimed at teaching inexperienced police dogs to attack on instruction, The Associated Press said.

They were not asked to plead on corruption charges, the agency added.

Repeatedly savaged

The remaining two defendants, Nicolaas Kenneth Loubser, 27 and Dino Guitto, 27, pleaded not guilty and will be tried separately.

The court adjourned briefly on Monday and proceedings were expected to resume later, officials said.

The video showed three men later identified as illegal Mozambican immigrants apparently being taken in turn from a police van to an open field.

German shepherd dogs were apparently encouraged to maul them about the face, limbs and, in one case, the groin as the attackers laughed and the victims screamed for mercy.

The victims were apparently repeatedly savaged by four police dogs and were beaten when they tried to fend them off.

The recording shocked South Africa when it was aired last year by the public broadcaster, and triggered a national debate about the nature of post-apartheid change.

Three of the accused, who have all been on bail, have since resigned from the police force. The others have been suspended pending the outcome of the trial.


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