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South Africa drops murder charges against 270 miners

Controversial charges against the South African miners involved in clashes at Lonmin mine have been suspended.

South africa lonmin marikana mine shooting 20120817Enlarge
Police surround fallen miners after they opened fire during clashes at the Lonmin Marikana platinum mine near Rustenburg, South Africa, on August 16, 2012. Hundreds of workers armed with machetes, sticks and metal rods had gathered on a hillside near the mine, defying police orders to disperse. Several people were lying on the ground, some bleeding from wounds, after the crowd fled, according to an AFP reporter. Police say at least 30 people were killed. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

South Africa said Sunday that it would drop the controversial murder charges brought against 270 miners involved in clashes at Lonmin Marikana platinum mine. 

The miners, who engaged violently with police while on strike for higher wages, had been accused by a regional prosecutor of murdering 34 of their comrades, who are commonly believed to have been shot by police officers. 

The charges were based on a hotly contested apartheid-era law that argued the miners provoked police to open fire on them, BBC News reported

"The murder charge against the current 270 suspects, which was provisional anyway, will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court on their next court appearance," South Africa's acting national director of public prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba, said in a statement, CNN reported.

More from GlobalPost: South Africa: Striking miners 'thought they were invincible' after taking 'muti'

Jiba noted, however, that other "provisional charges" would remain.

The clashes, which broke out on August 16 and left 44 dead and 78 injured, were the country's bloodiest confrontation since apartheid ended in 1994, according to the Associated Press

Officials have not yet charged police, as a judicial inquiry into the incident is still ongoing, the New York Times reported

“The actions of the police will be sorted out still,” Johan Smit, a provincial prosecutor in the region where the strike took place, told reporters. “We’re not ignoring that.”

The miners are still in custody despite calls to President Jacob Zuma that they be released. Around 100 miners whose addresses have been verified will be sent home on Monday, and the rest are expected to be freed Thursday, Agence France Presse reported

The mine has been closed since the incident, and as talks about increasing the workers' wages broke down. The discussions are set to resume Monday, BBC News reported. 

More from GlobalPost: Unrest continues at South Africa's troubled Lonmin platinum mine

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/south-africa/120902/south-africa-drops-murder-charges-miners