The 1970 findings of the inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Imam Abdullah Haron were set aside in the Western Cape High Court on Monday.
The National Prosecuting Authority was requested to re-open the inquest into the death of Imam Haron in September 2021. It sought the approval of Justice Minister Ronald Lamola and, in March 2022, successfully secured permission to reopen the inquest. A presiding officer was appointed in May 2022, and proceedings under the Inquest Act began in November.
The re-opened inquest heard that Imam Haron was arrested on 28 May 1969. On 11 August 1969, he was transferred to Maitland Police Station where he was detained until his death on 27 September 1969. Police believed that he was instructed to recruit students who wanted to study abroad, and young Muslims who wanted to go to Mecca and arrange travel amenities and facilities for terrorist training in China.
Following his arrest, he spent 123 days in detention. This comprised of 75 nights at Caledon Square Police Station and 45 nights at Maitland Police Station. He spent four months in solitary confinement and was tortured most of the time while in detention.
Imam Haron cause of death
In the findings of the re-opened inquest, the court found that the death of Imam Abdullah Haron was caused by the cumulative effect of injuries under torture. In particular a combination of severe systematic psychological stresses. During his detention, he also complained of chest pain, stomach pains, broken ribs, and bruises on his body.
The court now holds the then Security Branch of SAP members responsible for the acts and omissions leading directly to his death. During the initial inquest in 1970, the interrogators claimed that he fell off the stairs at the Caledon Police Station. They denied being responsible for his fall and claimed he fell on his back bruising his buttocks.
Senior State Pathologist, Dr Theodor Gottfried Schwar, conducted a postmortem examination in 1969. He concluded the cause of death was myocardial ischemia. This is the decreased blood flow to the heart muscle due to narrowing coronary absorption. These findings have now officially been rejected.