Deetlefs to conclude testimony at Aggett inquest

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Former Security Branch Police Officer Nicolaas Deetlefs is expected to conclude his testimony on Wednesday at the inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Neil Aggett in the High Court in Johannesburg.

Deetlefs has conceded that he lied at the first inquest that cleared the security branch police of any wrongdoing, but says he has been truthful at this re-opened inquest.

However, Aggett family lawyer, Howard Varney is not convinced.

Aggett was found hanging in his cell on February 5, 1982. The security branch says he committed suicide, but his family has rejected the claim.

Varney believes Deetlefs was among the Security Branch officers who were involved in the cover-up concerning Aggett’s death and is continuing with the same lies.

“I’m not going to trouble you with the legal argument, but we’ll be submitting that both Whitehead and Cronwright are responsible for the murder of Dr Aggett. Mr Deetlefs, where this impacts on you since you have admitted under oath a number of times, in your affidavit as well as your evidence that you helped to cover up; you agreed to stay quiet; we will be putting up to this court that in covering up, in keeping silent, you were an accessory to murder.”

SABC Journalist Nozintombi Miya reports that the Aggett family lawyers were relentless in questioning Deetlefs about the torture of detainees:

‘Aggett committed suicide’

Deetlefs says as far as he’s concerned,  Aggett committed suicide and therefore, does not understand where the question of murder comes from.

“My lord, I did say I interrogated him on the 30th of January. I don’t know of any assault or anything that transpired there. You can call it as you please, and now murder, I don’t know where council comes from with that .”

Earlier, Deetlefs denied ever assaulting Aggett during interrogation but admitted to assaulting former Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan.

After initially denying ever using violence against detainees, Deetlefs conceded that he actually did.

“My Lord, I would give a person a slap in the face.”

‘Never witnessed torture’

Monday, Deetlet confessed that they covered up the assault and torture of detainees at the then John Vorster Square Police Station, but said that he never witnessed the torture.

Deetlefs started working for the Security Branch Police in 1979, his office was on the 10th floor at the then John Vorster Square Police Station. He confirmed that he interrogated Aggett about a week before he died and told the court that Aggett looked relaxed when he questioned him about communism, the African National Congress (ANC) and terrorism.

Testimony by former security police officer Nicolas Deetlefs:

Deetlefs, however, says he felt Aggett was suicidal, saying he had told him he felt bad about revealing certain information about one of his comrades. Deetlefs also said that he never used violence to get information out of a detainee.

Anti-apartheid activist Ebrahim Ebrahim says that he was detained at John Vorster Square in 1986, and was interrogated by Deetlefs, who threatened him that if he didn’t talk, he was going to be tortured.

Ebrahim says, “At one stage, he told me that he’s not going to assault me, but he’s going to put me through something, if I survive it, he’ll be convinced that I’m not a human being. As a result, they put me in a very tiny cell – covered with press pack, the ceiling was covered with thick cupboards, thick boards, and they bombarded me with noise for 24 hours, day and night, until I became destabilised and my nerves cracked.”