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Zuma told to release Lonmin miners, or else...

Lawyers representing 270 Lonmin miners have threatened legal action if their clients are not released.

President Jacob Zuma visits Marikana, after 44 people were killed during mine protests. Picture: Taurai Maduna/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – Eyewitness News understands lawyers representing 270 Marikana miners have written to President Jacob Zuma requesting their release by Sunday afternoon.

If officials fail to release the suspects, legal action will be taken to force authorities to comply with the request.

It is understood the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) resurrected old apartheid legislation to hold the miners responsible for murder.

At least 34 striking workers were killed during a confrontation with police on August 16, resulting in the arrests.

Lawyers said millions of people around the world saw pictures on television of police officers opening fire on the workers.

Defence lawyers said to charge colleagues, friends and relatives with murder was bizarre.

In a letter sent to the Union Buildings and Justice Ministry, legal representatives said the arrests and continued detention was unlawful.

They said National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega admitted that it was police officers who killed the miners.

Attorneys said other role players in this drama, including mine owners, police and unions were exempt from prosecution pending the outcome of a commission of inquiry.

Representatives said it was not clear why miners were being charged prematurely.

Lawyers claim detained miners had their constitutional rights of freedom of movement and association violated.

Meanwhile, the NPA is standing firm on the issue on Friday afternoon, despite widespread condemnation.

Earlier, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) called on Zuma to suspend Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba.

Casac's Lawson Naidoo said, “This is gross misconduct on the part of the NPA. There really need to be repercussions.”

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