South Africa provisionally withdraw murder charges against 270 miners

Protesters sing as they hold weapons outside a South African mine in Marikana. Photo: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Charges against 270 miners accused of the murder of 34 of their colleagues, have been provisionally withdrawal. The miners will now be released while investigations continue.

A final decision about what charges they might face, if any, will be made once police inquiries have been completed.

Officials had previously said that the charges were brought under the so-called 'common purpose doctrine' - used regularly under the apartheid government - because the miners were thought to have been part of a crowd which attacked police officers before they opened fire on August 16th.

Ministers appeared to be baffled by the legal rationale for the decision.

Today's announcement from South African prosecutors will be interpreted as an admission that they acted too soon.

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