Prosecutors provisionally dropped murder charges against the 270 jailed miners who had been accused under an obscure legal doctrine of killing 34 of their own colleagues when the police opened fire on them while engaged in a wildcat strike.The police fired live ammunition into a crowd of about 3,000 platinum miners armed with clubs and machetes while trying to disperse the illegal strike on Aug. 16. When the firing stopped, 34 miners were dead and?South Africa?was outraged by the bloodiest confrontation between police and civilians since the end of apartheid. The police have claimed they acted in self-defense.6

The outrage grew when prosecutors announced last week that under a legal doctrine known as ?common purpose,? the miners themselves would be charged with murdering their colleagues. Under the doctrine, which was frequently used in the waning days of apartheid to charge members of protesting crowds with serious crimes committed by a few individuals, people in a mob can be charged as accomplices.

In a hastily arranged news conference Sunday, officials from the National Prosecuting Authority said that they would await the outcome of further investigations into the shootings, but did not rule out bringing murder charges again.
?Final charges will only be made once all investigations have been completed. The murder charges against the current 270 suspects will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court,? said Nomgcobo Jiba, the acting national director of prosecutions, told reporters.
Prosecutors also said they had not ruled out charges against the police.
?The actions of the police will be sorted out still,? said Johan Smit, a provincial prosecutor in the region where the strike took place told reporters. ?We?re not ignoring that.?
The murder charges against the miners, who remain in jail pending a hearing this week, had caused considerable consternation among the top leaders of the African National Congress, who were already being criticized for acting too slowly to end the wildcat strike peacefully and not responding quickly enough once the killings took place.
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said last week that the decision to charge the miners with murder ?has induced a sense of shock, panic and confusion within the members of the community and the general South African public,? and demanded an explanation from prosectors.
Lawyers for the jailed miners sent a letter to President Jacob Zuma demanding he intervene. Mr. Zuma had earlier created a commission of inquiry with broad powers to investigate the shooting.

The miners went on strike in Marikana, a town 80 miles northwest of Johannesburg, in early August to demand higher wages from the company that owns the mine, London-based Lonmin.

 

Source:???- New York Times

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