South African farmers in 'coffin case' plead not guilty

Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins look on during their court appearance in connection with forcing a black South African into a coffin and threatening to douse him in petrol and burn him alive, at a high court in Delmas, Mpumalanga province, South Africa, July 31, 2017Image copyright

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Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson are on trial in South Africa

Two white farmers accused of forcing a black South African into a coffin and threatening to pour petrol over him and burn him alive have pleaded not guilty.

Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson were arrested last year after a video of Victor Mlotshwa in a coffin began circulating online.

The farmers face charges of assault, attempted murder, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice.

The high profile case drew protesters from across the political spectrum.

Supporters of South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) and opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) were holding separate protests, both demanding justice for Mr Mlotshwa, asking the judge to find the pair guilty and give them long sentences.

Mr Oosthuizen and Mr Jackson previously said they didn’t mean the victim any harm and said they believed the impact of their actions was negligible.

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The video caused outrage in South Africa

According to South African website News24, the farmers, both 28, told the High Court in Delmas, about an hour east of Johannesburg, they caught the victim with stolen goods on private property and wanted to scare him to prevent further problems.

As well as allegedly threatening to burn him alive, they are also accused of saying they were going to put a snake in the coffin with Mr Mlotshwa.

The 20 second video, apparently filmed on a mobile phone in August last year, went viral and led to Mr Mlotshwa coming forward to make a formal complaint.

In it, one of the men can be heard saying in Afrikaans: “Come, come. We want to throw the petrol on.”

The video has been admitted as evidence.

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