South Africa's top court on Monday ordered the release on parole of a Polish immigrant who shot dead Chris Hani, a prominent anti-apartheid hero in 1993, a death that nearly sparked a civil war.
Janusz Walus, 69, has served nearly three decades of a life sentence for the murder, which took South Africa to the brink of a race war as negotiations to end apartheid entered their final phase.
The right-wing gunman killed Hani, a hugely popular leader of the Communist Party and fierce opponent of the apartheid regime, one year before South Africa's first multi-racial elections.
Constitutional Court judge Chief Justice Raymond Zondo ordered justice minister Ronald Lamola to place Walus "on parole on such terms and conditions as he may deem appropriate".
He said Walus must be released on parole within 10 calendar days from Monday.
Walus "was convicted of very serious crime... cold blooded murder", said Zondo, adding "his conduct nearly plunged this country into civil unrest", but he was entitled under law to parole.
In assassinating Chris Hani, Walus "seemed to have been intent on derailing the attainment of democracy by this country", said Zondo.
Hani was the general secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and chief of staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Every April 10, South Africans remember the communist stalwart at commemorative events and lay flowers at his grave in the east of Johannesburg.
'Injustice through justice'
He was shot dead in the driveway of his house on April 10, 1993, in Boksburg, a suburb east of Johannesburg. The incident led to protests and rioting in black townships.
Still in negotiations with the apartheid government over an election date, then-ANC president Nelson Mandela appeared on national television to appeal for calm.
Hani's family, which has opposed repeated attempts from Walus for parole, decried the ruling.
"This judgment is diabolical, totally diabolical," Hani's widow Limpho told a local TV channel shortly after the announcement. "This court has not even addressed the victims."
Solly Mapaila, leader of the SACP, a political ally of the ruling ANC, said it was unjust.
"An injustice has occurred today through justice," Mapaila told reporters outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg.
In a statement, the communist party said Hani's murder "left a gaping wound in his family, the SACP and the ranks of the working class. The judgment has rubbed salt granules to the wound."
Justice services ministry spokesman Chrispin Phiri said "a decision has been made by the court, we will have to consider it and apply it".
Walus immigrated to South Africa from then-communist Poland in 1981.
His accomplice, Clive Derby-Lewis, who supplied the gun that shot Hani, was released in 2015 on medical parole after 22 years in jail. He died of lung cancer in 2016, aged 80.
One of South Africa's most notorious apartheid murderers, Eugene de Kock, was granted parole in January 2015 after 20 years in jail.