South Africa’s highest court has ordered the release of a far-right gunman who killed anti-apartheid hero Chris Hani in 1993.
Janusz Walus had committed a “very serious crime”, but he was entitled to parole, the court ruled.
Hani’s widow Limpho condemned the ruling as “truly diabolical”.
She and the government had vigorously resisted attempts by Walus, 69, to gain his freedom after almost three decades in prison.
Walus killed Hani in a failed attempt to derail South Africa’s transition from white-minority rule to democratic rule.
In his ruling on behalf of the Constitutional Court, Chief Justice Ray Zondo said Walus had nearly plunged South Africa into a civil war after carrying out a “cold-blooded murder”.
But Justice Minister Ronald Lamola’s refusal to grant him parole was “irrational” and he should be released within 10 days, the chief justice said.
He added that “the principle of equality before the law was not just written for those who fought apartheid – but [also for] those who actively supported it”, local media report.
Justice services ministry spokesman Chrispin Phiri said “a decision has been made by the court, we will have to consider it and apply it”, AFP news agency reports.
Walus killed Hani as he picked up the newspapers outside his home in April 1993 by shooting him at point-blank range in the chin, behind the ear and in the chest.
He was arrested and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to life after South Africa abolished the death penalty at the end of apartheid, a legalised system of racial discrimination, in 1994.
Hani’s murder still evokes deep emotions in South Africa. He was regarded as the most popular politician after South Africa’s first black President Nelson Mandela, and his death caused much shock and anger.
He was the leader of the South African Communist Party (SACP), and a senior member of the military wing of the African National Congress, the former liberation movement which is now in power.
Walus’s co-conspirator in the murder, Clive Derby-Lewis, was released on parole in June 2015. Derby-Lewis had given Walus the gun used to kill Hani. He died in 2016 aged 80.
Walus is a Polish immigrant whose South African citizenship was revoked in 2017. Some have called for his deportation.
In a statement, the SACP said Hani’s murder had “left a gaping wound in his family, the SACP and the ranks of the working class”. “The judgment has rubbed salt granules to the wound,” it added.
While in prison, Walus became a symbol for young Polish nationalists and fascists.