August 19, 2005

Notorious apartheid policeman in Biko case dies

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Former South African security
policeman Gideon Nieuwoudt, who commanded the torture of
anti-apartheid hero Steve Biko, has died at the age of 54 from
cancer, SABC radio reported on Friday.

Nieuwoudt was notorious as one of the apartheid
government's most sinister operatives and was connected with
several infamous cases which exposed the white government's
brutality toward its political opponents.

"Nieuwoudt was feared by the people that he interrogated,
tortured and murdered," SABC said, reporting his death at a
hospital in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth.

"He used torture machines, electrical shocks, wet bags or
poison to extract information from activists, and often
disguised himself as a priest."

After apartheid gave way to multi-racial democracy in 1994,
Nieuwoudt was denied amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission for the 1977 fatal torture of Biko, one of the
country's most prominent opponents of white rule.

Biko, the founder of South Africa's Black Consciousness
Movement, suffered brain damage during interrogation, which saw
him driven naked and bleeding 1,000 km (625 miles) across the
country in the back of a police van. He died six days later.

Nieuwoudt was also involved in burning the bodies of three
activists from Port Elizabeth in 1985 and a 1989 car bombing
which killed three black policemen and an informer who had
threatened to detail police atrocities.

Niewoudt served some prison time for various crimes under
apartheid but evaded a 20-year sentence from the car bombing
after he was freed on appeal.

He was rearrested last year but freed on bail and reapplied
for amnesty for the 1989 bombing. A decision had been expected
this month.