White extremists who set off a series of bombs, plotted to overthrow the South African government and kill Nelson Mandela have been given jail terms, ending the first major treason trial under post-apartheid laws that many hope will deter future radicals.
The sentences for up to 20 defendants, between the ages of 32 and 74, ranged from five to 35 years.
Members of the Afrikaner extremist group Boeremag, or white farmer force, last year were convicted of treason for a plot in the late 1990s and early 2000 to violently overthrow South Africa’s government. The group had claimed responsibility for a series of bombings that killed a woman and caused damage throughout the Johannesburg township of Soweto in 2002.
Judge Eben Jordaan handed out the sentences in Pretoria to end the decade-long trial. National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Medupe Simasiku hoped that it would set a major precedent.
A leader of the group, Tom Vorster, and four members of its bomb squad had planted a bomb on a road Mr. Mandela was going to take to visit a school in Limpopo Province, but the plot was foiled when Mr. Mandela changed plans and took a helicopter to the school.
The members of the bomb squad were sentenced to an additional 13 years’ imprisonment, to be served concurrently, on charges of culpable homicide and conspiring to murder Mr. Mandela.
Mike du Toit, another leader, who was a former teacher at a segregated apartheid-era university, was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment, of which 10 years were conditionally suspended for five years, according to SAPA.
Boeremag is an extreme group of Afrikaners, the white South Africans of Dutch, French and German descent who ruled the country under the racist apartheid regime that ended in 1994.