South African police in dragging death case suspended | Africa | DW | 01.03.2013
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South African police in dragging death case suspended

The South African police chief has said the officers involved in the death of a taxi driver dragged behind a squad car have been suspended from duty. General Riah Phiyega said she shared the public's "shock and outrage."

Police Comissioner Riah Phiyega on Friday suspended eight police officers accused of killing a taxi driver by dragging him behind their patrol car. Phiyega said the officers were made to hand in their weapons, and that the local station commander had been removed from his post after the Mozambican immigrant's death, which was recorded by bystanders and posted on the Internet.

"Any one death is one too many," General Phiyega said in a press conference. "We believe in the principal of police being policed."

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One of the graphic amateur recordings

Mido Macia, 27, was found dead in police custody just over two hours after the incident; a post mortem determined head injuries and internal bleeding as the cause of death. South African President Jacob Zuma had described the man's death as "horrific, disturbing and unacceptable."

Phiyega also said she fully supported an investigation into the death    launched by South Africa's police watchdog agency, as it appeared that Macia's rights were "violated in the most extreme form." She also said she shared "the extreme shock and outrage" expressed by the public.

Police in the searchlight

South Africa's Independent Police Investigative Directorate had announced on Thursday that it was launching an investigation, saying it was "shocked by the footage which has been released."

In the video, Macia can be seen struggling with a group of police officers, who then handcuff him to the back of a police pickup truck and drag him to the station in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg. Some of the onlookers can be seen warning the police that they are on camera.

Phiyega had previously spoken of her "deep concern" over the incident, before announcing the initial disciplinary measures early on Friday.

South Africa's police force has come under particular scrutiny in the past year, most recently with the handling of the murder trial against Oscar Pistorius.

On August 16 last year, police shot dead 34 miners at a platinum mine in the north of the country, after a week of strikes that were sometimes violent. Phiyega said after those deaths that the officers were acting in self-defense. An investigation is ongoing, launched by President Zuma in the aftermath. Lawyers for the victims say that at least 14 of the miners were shot in the back.

msh/kms (AFP, AP)

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