South African court halts sale of Biko autopsy report: family

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 03, 2014 10:07 AM

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The family of renowned South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko said it won a court battle on Wednesday to stop an auction house selling a post-mortem report into his 1977 death.

Biko died of a brain hemorrhage after being arrested at a police roadblock, interrogated and tortured for hours. His demise triggered an international outcry and became a key moment in the decades-long struggle against white rule.

Members of his family went to the High Court on Tuesday, saying the report was national property. "The sale is disrespectful of African culture and should be stopped," Biko's son Nkosinathi told local radio.

On Wednesday a lawyer for the Biko family told Reuters a judge had halted the sale until Jan. 31 to give both parties time to negotiate or take legal action over the ownership of the document.

"(The order) prevents not just the auction but the copying, defacing, sale or use of the document in any way," Darren Olivier said.

Westgate Walding Auctioneers has said it received the 43-page document, which includes detailed analysis of injuries to Biko's brain, from a former secretary of the pathologist who attended the autopsy on behalf of the Biko family.

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The auction house called the report "a unique document of the struggle era of great historical importance", expecting it fetch up to 100,000 rand ($9,000) at a sale scheduled for Wednesday.

The court and officials from the auction house were not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa)