Africa

Mido Macia: South Africa police accused denied bail

Protesters chant slogans as they carry posters of Mido Macia in Johannesburg on 8 March 2013
Image caption Mido Macia's death has caused widespread anger

A South African court has denied bail to nine policemen charged with the murder of a Mozambican taxi driver who was dragged behind a police van.

Magistrate Sam Makamu said the policemen, who have pleaded not guilty to the charge, might try to interfere with witnesses.

Taxi driver Mido Macia, 27, died after being tied and dragged behind a police van near Johannesburg last month.

The incident, recorded on video by a bystander, caused widespread revulsion.

President Jacob Zuma called it "horrific" and "unacceptable" while police chief Riah Phiyega ordered the suspension of the accused officers.

'No angel'

The policemen sat together in the dock, most with their heads bowed low, as Mr Makamu gave his ruling in the Benoni Magistrate's Court, reports the BBC's Andrew Harding from Johannesburg.

The magistrate said he was concerned about sending the policemen home in an "unfavourable" climate, the South African Press Association (Sapa) reports.

He said they faced a potential risk from residents who may seek revenge, the news agency reports.

Earlier, defence lawyers argued that the policemen should be granted bail, like athletics star Oscar Pistorius who is charged with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on 14 February.

The policemen had served with distinction and were also breadwinners for their families, their lawyers said.

But Mr Makamu concluded that the officers might try to interfere with witnesses, and ordered that they remain in prison.

They are due to appear in court again next month.

The prosecution had argued that Mr Macia had suffered extensive injuries, culminating in hypoxia - a lack of oxygen supply to the body - causing his death.

"There were no organs that were not damaged, [not] his heart, lungs or spleen... Severe bruising to his arms shows he was desperately trying to fight for his life," prosecutor December Mthimunye said, South Africa's Times newspaper reports.

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Media captionPolice Commissioner Riah Phiyega: "The behaviour displayed in the video... is to be abhorred"

"His testes were severely swollen, showing huge trauma, a clear sign of 'torture' beating, which no one can explain.

"When he [Mr Macia] arrived at the [police] station, his pants were missing. He was crying, begging for help. They took him to the cell. Blood splatters on the walls and floor attest to the ferociousness [of the beatings]."

Defence lawyer Elias Tshole said the state had no case and that Mr Macia was no angel: "The deceased is not the man everyone is making him out to be... Just days before he died he was involved in a horrific accident that killed five innocent children."

Mr Tshole said medical experts would show that Mr Macia's injuries were sustained in the accident and that he died of "natural causes".

The video shows Mr Macia struggling with police on 26 February after apparently parking his vehicle illegally in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg.

Police officers then overcome the taxi driver and tie him to the back of a van by his arms before driving off, the video shows.

Mr Macia later died in police custody, the prosecution alleges.

Thousands of people attended his funeral in Matola, near Mozambique's capital Maputo, on Saturday.

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