South African Miners Charged in Police Shootings of Strikers

Posted August 30th, 2012 at 4:45 pm (UTC-5)
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South African prosecutors have charged 270 miners with the murders of 34 colleagues killed by police during a strike — a decision some South Africans call “madness.”

Authorities are using an obscure statute called the common purpose law, under which people in a crowd where a crime was committeed can be prosecuted as accomplices. The law has not been used in South Africa since apartheid ended almost 20 years ago. Under the law, the miners would be blamed for the deaths even though police did the shooting.

Prosecutors say police were forced to shoot at the miners because they strikers were attacking officers with clubs and machetes. Police say the miners had fired at least one gun.

But some South African legal experts say they do not think the courts will uphold the murder charges against the miners.

Workers in a platinum mine near Johannesburg went on strike earlier this month for more pay. Violence broke out when company officials asked police to break up the march.

Witnesses say police shot some of the miners in the back and that others were shot far from the scene.