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Death-squad leader De Kock given parole

South African apartheid era death-squad leader Eugene de Kock was granted parole yesterday after more than 20 years in prison.

The man dubbed “Prime Evil” was sentenced in 1996 to 212 years for the torture and murder of scores of black activists in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha told a news conference that Mr de Kock would be released “in the interests of nation-building and reconciliation” and because he had expressed remorse and helped authorities recover the remains of some victims.

The decision, which had been deferred several times over the last year, remains contentious in a country still dealing with the legacy of repression and brutality meted out by the white-minority apartheid regime.

Mr Masutha stressed that his decision was guided only by the law, although many South Africans — black and white — regard Mr de Kock’s crimes as so extreme that he should die behind bars.

The date of the 66-year-old’s release from Pretoria’s C-Max high-security prison would be kept secret, Mr Masutha added.

As head of an apartheid counter-insurgency unit Mr de Kock is believed to have been responsible for more atrocities than any other man in the efforts to preserve white rule.

At the same news conference, Mr Masutha also announced that he had denied medical parole to Clive Derby-Lewis, the ultra-rightwing politician who masterminded the 1993 assassination of Communist Party leader Chris Hani in an attempt to trigger a race war.

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