South Africa police charged with dragging murder

"What have we done to die like dogs?" - demonstrators outside Benoni magistrate's court, South Africa, 8 March
Image caption "What have we done to die like dogs?" - demonstrators outside Benoni magistrate's court

Nine South African policemen have been charged with murder after a taxi driver was dragged behind a police van and later found dead.

They were brought to the magistrate's court in Benoni, near Johannesburg, amid tight security.

They pleaded not guilty to murdering Mozambican taxi driver Mido Macia, 27, in nearby Daveyton on 26 February.

A small crowd of protesters were outside the court to oppose bail for the accused.

One placard read: "What have we done to die like dogs?".

The bail hearing has been postponed until Monday.

Video of Mr Macia being dragged through the streets caused widespread revulsion after it was broadcast on television.

The video, apparently recorded by a bystander on a mobile phone, shows a large crowd watching as uniformed policemen tie him to the van, dragging him as they drive away.

Graphic detail

The court was told on Friday that Mr Macia had suffered extensive injuries, culminating in hypoxia - a lack of oxygen supply to the body - causing his death.

According to pathologist Reggie Perumal, the victim had extensive abrasions on his face, limbs and body, deep cuts on his forearms and wrists and "almost full thickness lacerations of the head".

He also had bruised ribs, back, left and right testes, lips and bite marks on his tongue as well as bleeding and water on the brain, the report is quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

The suspects huddled together on the bench of the accused, some dressed in suits, others in casual clothes.

Aged between 25 and 57, some chewed gum, looked down while others occasionally shot a furtive smile, reports the AFP news agency.

Friday's hearing had been postponed from Monday to allow time for state witnesses to confirm the identities of the suspects.

The video shows Mr Macia struggling with police after apparently parking his vehicle illegally.

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

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionPolice Commissioner Riah Phiyega: "The behaviour displayed in the video... is to be abhorred"

Former South African President Nelson Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, joined hundreds of mourners at a Daveyton sports stadium on Wednesday.

Wednesday's emotional ceremony saw mourners, many wearing t-shirts and holding posters printed with Mido Macia's photograph, joining together to sing, clap and dance.

Graca Machel, who is herself Mozambican, told reporters: "As a society we are bleeding. We are grieving. We are in pain. We just don't know how to deal with the pain."

Sonnyboy Ndlovu, a witness to the dragging who was at the ceremony, told Reuters news agency: "The police are used to terrorising people here in the township, especially the Ethiopians and Mozambicans."

Mr Macia is due to be buried outside the country's capital, Maputo, on Saturday.

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