South Africa miners freed after court dropped murder charges


Striking mineworkers armed with machetes are monitered by a large number of police as they stage a sit-in on a hill near the Marikana mine in Rustenburg, 62 miles northwest of Johannesburg on August 15, 2012, where they are demading a wage increase. Ten people were killed in clashes at the platinum mine, which is run by leading producer Lonmin, between rival unions, the leading and decades-old National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the smaller Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).



South African miners held over the killings at the Lonmin Marikana platinum mine have begun to be released, following the decision to drop murder charges against them.

270 miners were taken into custody after the shootings, under an apartheid-era law that held them responsible for police opening fire on their fellow protesters. 

Roughly 140 miners are expected to be freed by the end of Monday, BBC News reported

"The protesters are to be released conditionally... and their case postponed pending the finalization of investigations," said acting national director of prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba Monday, Agence France Presse reported

More from GlobalPost: South Africa drops murder charges against 270 miners

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had confirmed the addresses of many of the miners Sunday, which meant they could apply to be released on warning. 

"Those whose physical residential addresses have not been confirmed by the police will remain in custody until the next court appearance which is Thursday, September 6, 2012," an NPA spokesman said, Reuters reported

The deaths of 34 people at the platinum mine August 16 were the bloodiest police-civilian confrontation since apartheid ended in 1994. Police, who are commonly thought to have shot the protesters, have argued that they they acted in self-defense.

South Africa's Justice Minister Jeffrey Radebe said that "it is inconceivable" to suspect the miners killed their own coworkers and relatives, UPI reported

The NPA officials, when announcing the miners release, did not say they had committed an error in charging them with murder initially, according to UPI.  

More from GlobalPost: South Africa Lonmin miners blamed for the deaths of protesters that police killed