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Judicial CP - April 1964

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News of the World, London, 12 April 1964

Torture men are to be caned

An African's story of how he and a friend were tortured with an electric shock machine and suffocated with plastic bags led to four white policemen and a court clerk being gaoled in South Africa yesterday.

Three of the policemen and the clerk were also sentenced to six strokes with a cane. The judge said the case was "a slur on South African law and the police".

The only witness in the case was a native, Philomeh Makhetia, who told the story of torture in Buitfontein police station, Orange Free State. Makhetia's friend, Izak Magaise, a shop worker, died after the savage treatment.

One of the policemen, PC Gert Coetzee, aged 19, said the Africans had been suspected of stealing 6 pounds 15s. from a café where they worked. They were handcuffed at the police station and trussed in a helpless position.

They were forced to sit on the floor with their handcuffed hands over their knees and a broomstick thrust between their arms and knees.

While one man held each victim's shoulders and another stood on his feet, Coetzee said he suffocated the Africans with a plastic bag.

Coetzee said he had learned to use plastic bags and an electric shock machine at Bloemfontein police station, 50 miles from Buitfontein.

Coetzee was convicted of assault with intent to cause bodily harm and sentenced nine years' gaol and six strokes.

PC Jacob Maree, aged 25, admitting slapping both prisoners with his open hand and giving electric shocks to Makhetia while he was bound up. He also admitted whipping him with a sjambok, a raw-hide whip.

Maree was convicted of culpable homicide and assault. He was sentenced to nine years' gaol and six strokes.

All five men had been charged with murder and assault with intent to murder.

The three others were: PC Johannes Van Wyk, aged 19, found guilty of culpable homicide and assault, and gaoled for three years and six strokes. The imprisonment was suspended for three years.

Johannes de Bruin, aged 21, court clerk, was found guilty of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and gaoled for three years with six strokes.

Warrant Officer Gert Roussburgh, 34, was found guilty of defeating the ends of justice and sentenced to four years.

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