UPDATE: Prosecutors have provisionally dropped the murder charges against the 270 jailed miners, the New York Times reports.ORIGINAL: The miners arrested at South Africa’s Marikana mine have been charged with the murder of 34 of their colleagues shot by police, BBC reports.
The 270 workers were charged under the “common purpose” doctrine—a law previously used by the former white minority regime against black activists fighting for democracy—because they were in the crowd that confronted police on August 16.
“This is under common law, where people are charged with common purpose in a situation where there are suspects with guns or any weapons and they confront or attack the police and a shooting takes place and there are fatalities,” National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Frank Lesenyego told the BBC.
South African lawyer Jay Surju told BBC that the law is “a very outdated and infamous doctrine” that was “discredited during the time of apartheid.”
Six of the charged workers remain in hospital after being wounded in the shooting.
“The policemen who killed those people are not in custody, not even one of them. This is madness,” said former ruling ANC party youth leader Julius Malema told BBC. “The whole world saw the policemen kill those people.”
The protests at the mine owned by Lonmin, the world’s third biggest platinum producer, were triggered by demands for a pay rise and a new union.
Police contend that they started shooting after being threatened by large groups of miners armed with machetes and noted tha 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed during the protests before the police shooting.
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