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Miners charged with police shooting of colleagues

Mine workers arrested during a union strike in South Africa have been charged with murder. The 34 workers killed on August 16 were shot dead by police.

Mine workers arrested during a union strike in South Africa have been charged with murder, over the police shooting of 34 of their colleagues.

Arbeitskampf in südafrikanischer Mine Marikana

Police shot the workers at Lonmin platinum mine after the deaths of 10 others, including two police officers, following a stand-off. They said the shootings were in self-defense.

A spokesman for South Africa's prosecutors office said the 270 workers had been charged with murder under "common purpose law."

The violence was sparked by a wage dispute at the mine and a turf war between rival trade unions. The shootings caused an uproar in South Africa and around the world, and led to President Jacob Zuma denying the killings were a government directive.

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Miners facing murders charges

"Those saying our government gave orders to kill are misinformed because it will never be our policy to harm those we represent," Zuma said during a visit to the mine on August 22.

The 270 workers were arrested following the shootings, and all are in custody.

One African legal expert has questioned the use of the "common purpose" law under which the miners were charged. This means all who participated in the riot can be held liable for the outcome.

"In charging the miners for the death of miners killed by the police, I don't see how common purpose doctrine could be used here," said Vincent Nmehille, a law professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

jr/pfd (AFP, AP, dpa)

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