South African court frees miners after charges dropped | News | DW | 03.09.2012
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South African court frees miners after charges dropped

The first group of miners facing murder charges stemming from killings during a strike action that was broken up by police have been released from custody.

After prosecutors provisionally withdrew the murders charges against the miners, 47 were released by a court near Pretoria on Monday.

"The murder charges against the accused are at this point of time withdrawn," said Magistrate Esau Bodigelo. "You may stand down."

A total of 270 miners were arrested and accused of the murders of 34 of their colleagues who were gunned down by police in a clash last month at a mine in Marikana. The miners had been charged under "common purpose law," which originates from the apartheid era. Prosecutors argued the miners acted with a common purpose in the deaths of their colleagues.

The original violence at the mine was sparked by a wage dispute and a turf war between rival unions. The incident sparked outrage in South Africa and internationally, with many drawing a link to Apartheid justice.

Elsewhere in South Africa, other mining disputes continued, with four people injured at a protest action east of Johannesburg.

A group of workers who had been fired from the Gold One mine returned, armed with sticks and iron rods, and tried to block access for other workers on their way to work. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Four people were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

"Police are investigating a case of attempted murder," said police spokeswoman Pinky Tsinyane, addressing the arrests. "We understand that the ex-miners were assaulting the miners who were coming to work this morning."

mz/pfd (Reuters, AFP, dpa)