Officers accused of killing South African teen to appear in court

Killing of Nathaniel Julies, a 16-year-old boy with Down syndrome, sparked outcry and protests against police brutality.

Community members demonstrate during a sit down peaceful protest against the killing of 16 year old Nathaniel Julius at Eldorado Park Police Station on August 30, 2020 in Eldorado Park, South Africa.
El Dorado community members protested against Julies's killing [Laird Forbes/Gallo Images via Getty Images]

Three South African police officers are due to appear in court over the killing of a disabled teenager, in a case that sparked public outcry and once again put police brutality in the country under the spotlight.

Thursday’s hearing in the Protea magistrates court in Soweto will be the second time the officers appear before a judge over the August 26 shooting of Nathaniel Julies in Eldorado Park, a suburb of Johannesburg.

Witnesses said Julies, a 16-year-old boy with Down syndrome, was holding a biscuit in his hand when police began questioning him, but he was not able to answer properly due to his condition.

They alleged that police officers bundled Julius into a van after the shooting and took him to hospital several kilometres away, where he died.

“It is very difficult for many South Africans to imagine what could have happened that caused the death of a 16-year-old with Down syndrome,” said Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, reporting from Soweto.

Julies’ family maintain that he could not answer the officers’ questions because of his disability.

The case has reignited a debate about police brutality in South Africa, with demonstrators taking to the streets to demand accountability for the young boy’s killing. On Saturday, dozens of mourners bid an emotional farewell to Julies as he was laid to rest.

Police initially said Julies was wounded in a shoot-out between gang members and police officers when a stray bullet hit him. But the family and the community rejected the claim.

On August 31, two police officers were charged with murder, discharge of a firearm in a public place, being in possession of prohibited ammunition and defeating the ends of justice. A third suspect was arrested days later.

Source: Al Jazeera