JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Criminal charges of subversion against the Rev. Allan Boesak, one of South Africa's leading anti-apartheid campaigners, have been dropped and restrictions on his political activities have been lifted, government prosecutors said Tuesday.
Boesak, the president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, had been charged with four counts of subversion for advocating international economic sanctions against South Africa and organizing a march in August, 1985, on the Cape Town prison where black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela is held.
The charges were "simply harassment," Boesak said, adding: "They never had a case, and finally they had to admit it. I am only surprised that it took so long. But now I am free to say what's on my mind."
Asked why the state after more than 14 months had decided not to pursue the case, a spokesman for the Cape of Good Hope provincial attorney general said, "I cannot give you any reasons."
Boesak Not in Court
The charges were formally withdrawn Monday at a magistrate's court at Malmesbury, a village about 40 miles north of Cape Town, without either Boesak or his attorney being present.
"I think they did it that way to save themselves some embarrassment," Boesak said. "If this had come to court, they would have had to state publicly that they had no case against me, and that would have been too much for them to handle. . . . In this country, we have secret indictments and now secret acquittals."
The prosecutors had told the court in September, when they were granted one last adjournment in the year-old case, that the state had so much evidence against Boesak that the documents "would fill a vault."
Boesak, who faced a possible 20-year prison sentence if convicted on any of the subversion charges, was never asked to enter a plea in the case, but as a condition of his bail was barred from speaking on foreign divestiture in South Africa, on other international economic sanctions against the country and on domestic consumer boycotts. For a time, he was also placed under house arrest and his passport was seized.
Detained Before March
He had been detained without charge under South Africa's severe security laws the day before the planned march on Pollsmoor Prison outside Cape Town, and he was held in solitary confinement for a month before being charged with subversion and released on bail under restrictions that effectively barred him from political activities.
Despite Boesak's arrest, demonstrators proceeded with the march to demand Mandela's freedom, but were stopped by riot police using whips, tear gas and shotguns. Scores died in the subsequent violence that continued for weeks around Cape Town late last year.