SAN DIEGO — A happy but weary Scott Daugherty--who a week ago was detained by South African security forces as part of the government-imposed state of emergency--stepped off an airplane here late Saturday to the greetings of an enthusiastic crowd of friends and relatives.
"I experienced a lot more than I ever thought I could," said Daugherty, a 19-year-old San Diegan who was among 250 people arrested June 15 when police broke up a prayer meeting at a church in a Cape Town suburb.
Daugherty was one of four Americans detained since the state of emergency was declared.
Despite his ordeal, Daugherty said he would return to South Africa "as soon as they give me a visa." Daugherty, who was interviewed by about a dozen reporters at Lindbergh Field, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with "UDF (United Democratic Front) unites, apartheid divides."
He said his experience led him to conclude that the South African government is "as brutal as any government I could think of."
Overall, Daugherty said, he was treated well in prison, where he was confined to a small cell and interrogated three times by South African security forces.
"They wanted to know about my history in the States . . . and what I was doing in South Africa," he said. He said authorities told him that he could not talk to U.S. Consulate officials until the state of emergency was lifted and that he would be put on trial.
Although he was arrested at a church service, Daugherty said, he was told he would be charged with illegal distribution of leaflets, an accusation he says is untrue.
Incident at Church
In describing the event, Daugherty said that police armed with lead-tipped sticks descended on the congregation. Many people attempted to run away, but a minister told the people to "get down on our knees and . . . pray."
It appeared that there were no injuries at the church, he said. He described the service itself as "unpolitical."
Daugherty left Johannesburg Friday, traveling to Rome and then to New York, where he boarded the American Airlines flight that brought him home.
Daugherty arrived in South Africa on April 17. He went there because he wanted to help the victims of apartheid. Friends said Scott is a great admirer of South African Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, whom he met four years ago.
While in South Africa, Daugherty had been staying with the Rev. Brian Burchfield, a Lutheran missionary and U.S. citizen living there.
According to the State Department's version of events on the day of the arrest, Burchfield had gone to St. Nicholas Anglican church at Elsie's River to pick up Daugherty and take him to the airport, where he was to catch a flight to San Diego.
Burchfield arrived as Daugherty and all members of the congregation were being arrested. The missionary asked to talk to the officer in charge and was arrested, but he was released a few hours later.