updated 7/16/2007 9:31:31 PM ET 2007-07-17T01:31:31

A former police minister whose name is synonymous with the brutal repression of apartheid's political opponents is to stand trial for the poisoning of a high-ranking government official, prosecutors said Monday.

Adriaan Vlok and four other former police officials have been charged with attempted murder in connection with an alleged 1989 plot to kill the Rev. Frank Chikane, now a top aide in President Thabo Mbeki's office.

Chikane was secretary-general of the South African Council of Churches when his clothes were laced with a poison that attacked his nervous system.

Last year Vlok asked for Chikane's forgiveness by washing his feet in an attempt to atone for the sins of the white racist regime that ruled the country until 1994.

The ailing and now-devout Christian was embraced by Chikane but his actions caused controversy, with some lauding it and others saying it was too little, too late from Vlok.

Panyaza Lesufi, spokesman for the National Prosecuting Office, said papers had been filed in the Pretoria High Court and the men would appear in court on August 17.

Accused of more than 100 deaths
Vlok was appointed minister of law and order in 1986 and still headed the ministry when allegations surfaced in 1989 that police hit squads may have been involved in the murder of more than 100 political activists. His ministry is believed to have detained an estimated 30,000 people during his tenure.

Vlok appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up to help South Africa come to terms with the past, and was granted amnesty in connection with other violence.

However, he never applied for protection from prosecution with regard to the attempt on Chikane's life.

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