The South African government said Tuesday that four escaped detainees holed up at the West German Embassy can go free, but the black activists remained in their refuge.
The four, who had been on a hunger strike to protest their imprisonment without trial, met Tuesday evening with their lawyers, who said the escapees intended to remain at the embassy Tuesday night and will make a statement today.
Brig. Leon Mellett, spokesman for Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok, said the escapees are “legally free. . . . They will not be arrested if they walk out of there.” Mellett said release orders for three of the men had been signed Saturday and the fourth case also was being reviewed at that time.
Mellett refused to say if the releases would be unconditional. Many detainees freed in recent weeks are under tough restrictions limiting their movements and involvement in anti-apartheid organizations.
Lawyer Priscilla Jana said the Ministry of Law and Order has given her four clients unspecified “assurances.”
The activists escaped Monday from a Johannesburg hospital where they were being treated for the effects of the hunger strike. Jana said they traveled by taxi the 40 miles to the embassy in Pretoria.
The escapees--Job Sithole, 21, Ephraim Nkoe, 28, Mpho Lekgoro, 24, and Clive Radebe, 28--had been held for between 10 and 23 months.