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Wednesday, October 28, 1998 Published at 10:56 GMT


World: Africa

Biko murder hearings resume

Biko's death sparked widespread protest

A former South African policeman has said that interrogators left black activist Steve Biko chained and untended for 24 hours after he was beaten during questioning 20 years ago.

Gideon Nieuwoudt is last of five former officers to be cross-examined at a Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing into Mr Biko's death in 1977.

Mr Biko - widely seen as the greatest martyr of the anti-apartheid movement - died in police custody. At the time, the police said he had behaved violently and that he hit his head while struggling.

His family believes he was thrown at the wall deliberately and was maltreated as he lay dying.

Mr Nieuwoudt told the hearing on Monday that during questioning, Mr Biko had tried to attack a police officer. He and his colleagues had grabbed the prisoner, and their momentum resulted in Mr Biko's head hitting a wall.

"If he had been given immediate medical attention, Mr Biko might have been alive today," Mr Nieuwoudt said.

Mr Biko was not examined by a doctor until the day afterwards.

Four other police officers who interrogated Mr Biko have admitted to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that they beat him and that they lied about the date of his death, but they still say his death was accidental.

Mr Nieuwoudt said he hit the 30-year-old activist with a rubber hose to try and restrain him.

"My observation was that Mr Biko was arrogant, aggressive and he didn't answer questions at all," he said.

A BBC correspondent in South Africa says the Biko family suspect the officers are trying to gain an amnesty without telling the full story.





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08 Dec 97 | Background
Steve Biko: Martyr of the anti-apartheid movement





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