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SA assassin tells Botha trial of `orders from top'

THE most notorious assassin of the apartheid era told a South African court yesterday that he had carried out the bombing of civilian targets on ``orders from the top.''

He was speaking at the trial of former South African president P W Botha.

Eugene de Kock, who as chief of the police unit that killed and tortured black guerrillas was known as ``Prime Evil,'' said he had bombed African National Congress offices in London and the South African Council of Churches headquarters and trade union offices in Johannesburg.

He said he had questioned the order to attack Cosatu House in Johannesburg, as ``it was the first time on South African soil that we had to go to extremes like that, and I wanted to know how high it came from because we were talking major terrorism''.

When told of criticism about his team's preparations, de Kock said he told his superior: ``If P W Botha feels he can do it better, he can go and blow it up himself.''

He said he and others felt they had been ``sold out'' by politicians in the then ruling National Party. ``They want the lamb, but they don't want to see the blood. They are cowards,'' said de Kock, who has served two years of a 212-year jail sentence for crimes he committed as leader of the apartheid-era ``hit squad.''

Botha (82), is on trial in George regional court charged with contempt for refusing to testify before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about atrocities committed while he was in power.

He listened intently as de Kock gave his evidence. But he turned his back on the former security force man during an adjournment. His lawyers had unsuccessfully tried to prevent de Kock from giving evidence, claiming his testimony was irrelevant.

Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, the TRC chairman, took the stand and denied in the witness box that he had given Botha an undertaking that he would not have to appear personally before the Commission if he gave written answers to its questions.

Bishop Tutu said he was taking the witness stand ``with the greatest possible reluctance and with considerable distaste,'' as he had attempted on numerous occasions to persuade Botha to appear before the TRC.

If convicted on the contempt charge, the former state president could face a fine of up to 20,000 rand (£2,500 pounds) or a prison sentence. The trial continues.

( Daily Telegraph London)