JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The legacy of former apartheid activist and member of parliament, Jackie Selebi, who died Friday, may be overshadowed by his disgrace as national police commissioner.
The former top police official, who also was president of Interpol from 2004 to 2008, was convicted of corruption in 2010, accused of accepting bribes from a drug smuggler in exchange for tipoffs into police investigations.
During his sentencing, Judge Meyer Joffe described Selebi as “an embarrassment” and quoted the former commissioner’s own words to him, in which Selebi promised to stop police corruption and “fight crime with clean hands.”
Selebi, a senior member of the ruling African National Congress, maintained his innocence, describing an alleged political conspiracy.
The judge dismissed Selebi’s argument that he was targeted by political enemies who wanted to punish him for his criticism of an elite crime-fighting unit. After losing an appeal, Selebi was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but was released on medical parole after eight months. Opposition leaders and civil society groups criticized his early release.
Selebi died in a Pretoria hospital after a long illness, according to family spokesman Nthato Selebi. Media reports say the 64-year-old suffered diabetes and kidney failure.
Selebi, a former school teacher, was twice detained for his anti-apartheid activism. He went into exile in Tanzania and later the Soviet Union, where he underwent military training.
The government said it would remember Selebi for his “selfless contribution to the liberation struggle,” while the ANC described Selebi as a “giant.”
The South African Police Union said that while Selebi had left the police service “under a dark cloud,” he was commended for his leadership.
After apartheid ended in 1994, he served in parliament and later as an envoy to the United Nations in Geneva and as the chairman of U.N. Human Rights Commission.
He is survived by his wife and two children.
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