South African police drag man behind van, later found dead in police cell

JOHANNESBURG (AP) - His hands are tied to the rear of a police van while his body lay behind it, on the ground. The van speeds off, dragging the slender man along the pavement as a crowd of onlookers shouts in dismay and at least one videotapes the scene. He is later found dead in a police cell.

It's a gut-wrenching video, made all the more disturbing by the fact that the men who carried out the abuse were uniformed South African police officers and the van was a marked police vehicle. The Daily Sun, a South African newspaper, posted video of the footage on Thursday and it was quickly picked up by other South African news outlets and carried on the Internet. It sparked immediate outrage.

Some of those in the crowd who watched the scene unfold in a township east of Johannesburg shouted at the police and warned that it was being videotaped. The police did not seem at all concerned as they tied Mido Macia, a 27-year-old taxi driver from neighbouring Mozambique, to the back of a police vehicle, his hands behind his head, his buttocks on the ground. At least three policemen participated in the incident. Macia was found dead in a police cell late on Tuesday in the Daveyton township east of Johannesburg.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate, the police watchdog agency, said on Thursday that a murder probe is underway and that Macia suffered head and other injuries, including internal bleeding.

It added that the incident started just before 7 pm on Tuesday when the cab driver was allegedly obstructing traffic with his vehicle. Then, Macia allegedly assaulted a constable and took his weapon before he was overpowered.

The graphic footage has renewed concerns about brutality, corruption and other misconduct by a national police force whose reputation has suffered in recent years amid reports that many officers lack training. Some have been charged with committing the crimes they are supposed to prevent, including rape and murder.