9 S.Africa police denied bail over death of taxi driver

12th March 2013, Comments 0 comments

A South African court on Tuesday refused bail for nine policemen accused of dragging a Mozambican taxi driver behind their van and then beating him to death in custody.

"I do not think it's in the interest of justice that they be released on bail," said Magistrate Sam Makamu, indicating that the group could threaten witnesses.

The ruling came after three day of hearings into the killing of Mido Macia, aged 27.

On February 26 bystanders filmed Macia being manhandled, handcuffed to the back of a police van and dragged hundreds of metres (yards) through the streets of Daveyton, a town east of Johannesburg.

Just over two hours later he was found dead in a cell, with head wounds and bleeding on the brain, in a case that shocked South Africa and the world and caused a diplomatic incident.

After Tuesday's ruling Jose Nascimento, a lawyer for the Mozambique government, said they were "happy with the outcome of the bail application."

"Due process of the law was followed and the presiding magistrate gave a solid judgement."

Prosecutors earlier told the Benoni Magistrate Court that the taxi driver was brought to a police station crying, bleeding and without trousers.

Investigators also found blood spots on his cell's walls and floor, suggesting he was abused at the police station.

Macia was later discovered lying on his back in a pool of blood wearing a red shirt and black underwear briefs.

The prosecution argued that the policemen should not be granted bail as such a move could disrupt public peace.

The men were in danger of reprisal attacks and could interfere with evidence because some witnesses were their colleagues, the court heard.

Police had to protect the defence lawyers Monday when a small crowd of protesters attacked them leaving the court, amid outrage at apparent police brutality.

But the nine cops say they are not to blame.

Lawyers for the nine argued that nothing implicated their clients in the death.

"We do not even have evidence that would suggest these accused are the source of that death," said advocate Elias Tshole.

Macia, a minibus taxi driver, had assaulted a policeman while resisting arrest after being confronted for parking his taxi on the wrong side of the road, they say.

The driver of the police van claimed he drove away to escape an angry crowd that had gathered, and did not know Macia was being dragged behind.

None of the accused have explained how the Mozambican ended up cuffed to the van or dead in his cell.

Their lawyers Monday claimed the driver had killed five children in a car accident days before he died, apparently suggesting his injuries from that incident may have led to his death.

© 2013 AFP

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