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Biehl Relatives Attend Crucial Court Session : Justice: Arguments are heard on whether murder defendants’ statements to police can be used as evidence.

<i> From Associated Press</i>

The mother and sister of slain American student Amy Biehl on Monday attended a crucial phase in the trial of three black youths charged with murdering her almost a year ago.

Biehl, 26, a Fulbright scholar from Newport Beach, was beaten and stabbed to death by a mob of black youths in the Guguletu township last Aug. 25, days before she was to leave the country.

Seven youths were arrested after police received tips from outraged residents of the black neighborhood where Biehl was attacked while driving black friends home.

While in South Africa, Linda Biehl and her eldest daughter Kim, 28, will also visit the community projects where Amy Biehl worked.

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“We had thought a lot about this month being the anniversary month of Amy’s death and how to handle it in a positive way as a family,” Linda Biehl said in an interview.

The Biehls entered the courthouse quietly Monday. In February, the defendants’ supporters hurled racist abuse at the family, yelling, “Kill Americans” and the anti-white slogan “One Settler, One Bullet,” used by backers of the militant black Pan Africanist Congress.

Witnesses have testified that Biehl’s attackers shouted that slogan, which the PAC recently officially abandoned in favor of “One Child, One Education.”

On Monday, the prosecution and defense concluded arguments on whether statements the four defendants made to police could be used as evidence.

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Defense lawyer Justice Poswa called police witnesses “liars” and said it was “reasonably possible” that the defendants were assaulted and coerced into making the statements.

Several key witnesses have not testified because of alleged intimidation, and the prosecution could find it difficult to get a conviction if Judge Gerald Friedman does not agree that the defendants’ statements were voluntary.

Three defendants were released on the first day of the Supreme Court hearing last November when a witness refused to testify against them. A friend who was in the car with Biehl when she was attacked testified against the defendants but then recanted after she was threatened. Two other young witnesses have failed to testify because of alleged intimidation.

The three defendants, PAC members Mongezi Manquina, 21, Mzikhona Nofemela, 22, and Vusumzi Ntamo, 22, are free on bail. A 16-year-old youth will be tried separately.

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