A man believed to have committed more atrocities than any other during South Africa's apartheid will walk away a free man after more than 20 years in prison. Eugene de Kock, known as "Prime Evil" for his role in the torture and murder of black activists, was granted parole today, a day after his 66th birthday, the BBC reports. His expressed remorse and assistance recovering victim remains helped the government reach its decision, which is "in the interests of nation-building and reconciliation," the country's justice minister says. It's controversial nonetheless. "At some point we need to forgive one another," a taxi driver tells Reuters, while another local argues, "He is not supposed to be freed. The atrocities he did to our people were very bad."
De Kock was once the head of a counter-insurgency police unit at a farm called Vlakplaas, where victims were bound in rope and blown up to destroy all evidence of a crime. He was sentenced to two life sentences plus 212 years in 1996 after confessing to hundreds of murders at Nelson Mandela's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the BBC reports. De Kock said he should be granted parole because he was the only member of the police force to be sent to prison, the New York Times reports. Others argued he was a scapegoat for the apartheid-era government and his orders came from superiors. Meanwhile, Clive Derby-Lewis, the mastermind behind the assassination of a Communist Party leader in 1993, was denied medical parole today. He is said to be dying of cancer. (Read more apartheid stories.)