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Page last updated at 08:55 GMT, Thursday, 2 April 2009 09:55 UK

Challenge to South Africa pardons

Kgalema Motlanthe
Kgalema Motlanthe took over the presidency in September last year

Civil rights groups in South Africa are going to court to stop President Kgalema Motlanthe from granting a pardon to some apartheid-era prisoners.

The pardons are for prisoners serving time for politically motivated crimes committed before June 1999.

The inmates did not seek amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the end of apartheid in 1994.

A multi-party task team has reportedly recommended pardons for about 120 out of a total of 2,300 who applied.

The BBC's Mpho Lakaje in Johannesburg says the coalition of civil rights groups is expected to argue that the pardon process is unlawful because victims of the perpetrators have not been consulted.

The pardons would be the culmination of a process initiated by former President Thabo Mbeki two years ago.

Among them are members of right wing organisation who were imprisoned for attacking black people in the Northern Cape Province shortly after the end of white minority rule in 1994.

Our reporter says the courts described the incidents as unashamed racist attacks that randomly targeted black people and incited terror among non-white South Africans.

The presidency says it does not believe the pardon process is flawed but it has encouraged the human rights coalition to go ahead with its court bid.



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