S. African officers confess to killing Biko
Policemen seek amnesty in deaths
January 28, 1997
of anti-apartheid activists
Web posted at: 9:00 a.m. EST (1400 GMT)
PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (CNN) -- Former South African
security officers have confessed to killing
anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, according to a statement
released Tuesday by the country's Truth and Reconciliation
"Applications have been filed by a number of former security
policemen who have indicated they are applying for amnesty in
respect of charges of assault and culpable homicide," the
statement said. "Members of the former security branch
acknowledge responsibility for assaults on Steve Bantu Biko
... in September 1977 ... and the killing of Mr. Biko."
The commission said five former security officers filed
applications for amnesty after investigations implicated them
in Biko's death. Security policemen have also applied for
amnesty in connection with the cases of nine other
anti-apartheid activists, including a group killed in 1985
and others from the Eastern Cape province.
The statement contained no further details, but called the
findings "a major breakthrough."
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been charged with
investigating crimes committed during South Africa's long
Biko's death 20 years ago while in police custody drew
unprecedented international attention onto South Africa's
apartheid regime. The activist was taken into custody in Port
Elizabeth and driven naked in the back of a police van to
Pretoria for interrogation. He was found dead of brain damage
At the time, police said Biko fell and struck his head, but
anti-apartheid leaders have long held that he was murdered.
In some of the other activists' deaths, inquests determined
that security officers were responsible, but failed to
determine if they were acting on orders.
The charismatic Biko urged black South Africans to take pride
in themselves and their culture and to fight against the
Family, friends and associates of Biko said they hoped the
confessions would put an end to nearly 20 years of waiting.
"I've always wanted to see them brought to justice," said
Biko's widow, Ntsiki, who launched an unsuccessful campaign
last year to deny the commission its ability to grant
Newspaper editor Donald Woods, who befriended Biko and later
wrote a biography of the black consciousness leader, said
that he hopes the news "leads to other revelations."
"Too much has been hidden for too long," he said.
Peter Jones, who was arrested along with Biko, agreed, and
said the next step was to determine if the police acted on
their own. (213K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Biko's story formed the basis for the 1987 film "Cry
Correspondent Mike Hanna and Reuters contributed to this report.
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