South African police under fire for dragging death

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JOHANNESBURG -- Police face possible murder charges in South Africa for allegedly handcuffing a man to a van and dragging him along a road, after the popular tabloid the Daily Sun posted a video of the incident online.

Commuter mini-bus driver Mido Macia allegedly was accosted by several officers Tuesday evening after blocking traffic with his white Toyota Avanza minivan. The video footage showed the 27-year-old Mozambican resisting police as they muscled him toward the police van, while a crowd of people watched and shouted.

The video shows Mr. Macia being handcuffed by police to the van with his hands above his head before an officer drives the van away, dragging him along the road until the vehicle is out of sight. Mr. Macia's buttocks and legs dragged along the road. According to a statement by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, or IPID, Mr. Macia died several hours after being taken into custody.

The death comes as South African police have been under fire for other instances of alleged brutality or misconduct. Last week, Hilton Botha, lead detective in the murder trial of Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, was removed from the case because he faced attempted murder charges in a shooting that involved a commuter taxi carrying seven passengers.

Police also have been criticized over the fatal shootings of 34 protesting platinum miners, some of whom had allegedly surrendered during a confrontation after a strike in August at the Lonmin platinum producer's Marikana mine. The shootings ignited a debate about excessive police violence.

According to the IPID statement, the confrontation with Mr. Macia began at 6:50 p.m. Tuesday. He was found dead in a police cell at 9:15 p.m. He died of internal bleeding and head injuries and had suffered other injuries as well. The IPID, which investigates accusations against police, has launched an inquiry into the death. It said the case was being treated as a homicide, but no one had yet been arrested or charged.

During the struggle, Mr. Macia allegedly hit a policeman and grabbed his firearm, the IPID said. The policeman then grabbed the weapon back and overpowered Mr. Macia. Amnesty International said the video footage and reports of police violence against Mr. Macia were shocking. "This appalling incident involving excessive force is the latest in an increasingly disturbing pattern of brutal police conduct in South Africa," Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International's southern Africa director, said in a statement.

According to Amnesty International, cases of suspicious deaths due to policing are disturbingly common in South Africa.

According to the IPID annual report covering the period of April 2011 through March 2012, there were 720 reports of deaths in police custody or as a result of police action.

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