March 30, 2016 / 10:58 AM / a year ago

South African state appeals freeing of anti-apartheid hero's killer

Janusz Walus testifies at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing at Pretoria City Hall in this August 20, 1997 file photo.Files

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's justice minister Michael Masutha will appeal a court decision to free the killer of anti-apartheid leader Chris Hani, his department said on Wednesday.

Janusz Walus, a Polish immigrant, has served more than 20 years of a life sentence for the 1993 murder of Hani, who was a senior member of the now-ruling African National Congress (ANC) and head of the South African Communist Party.

Hani's murder triggered nationwide riots, almost derailing South Africa's 1994 transition to multi-racial democracy after decades of white apartheid rule.

"The Minister believes that the honorable court erred in its judgment and is of the view that there are prospects of success on appeal," the justice ministry said on Wednesday.

Clive Derby-Lewis, a right-wing politician who provided the murder weapon used by Walus, was freed on medical parole last year. Both men were originally sentenced to death but that was reduced to life in prison after South Africa abolished the death penalty in 1995.

Hani's wife, Limpho, has criticized the decision to free Walus as "very sad for South Africa".

Reporting by Stella Mapenzauswa; Editing by Joe Brock

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