South Africa Drops Murder Charges Against Miners

Posted September 2nd, 2012 at 9:55 am (UTC-5)
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South African prosecutors have provisionally dropped murder charges against 270 miners accused of killing 34 fellow workers shot dead by police.

The miners were charged following the August 16 shooting incident during a strike at the Lonmin mine in Marikana.

The acting director of prosecutions, Nomgcono Jiba, said Sunday that final charges will only be made once all investigations are complete. She said the murder charges against the 270 suspects will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court.

Local authorities charged the miners under an obscure statute called the “common purpose law,” under which people in a crowd where a crime was committed can be charged as accomplices.

Under the apartheid-era law, the miners can be blamed for the deaths even though police did the shooting in the incident.

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

Workers at the platinum mine near Johannesburg went on strike earlier in August for more pay. The shooting incident was preceded by clashes in which 10 people, including two police officers, were killed.