Key black dissidents convicted of terrorism and treason were given sentences Thursday ranging from suspended jail terms to 12 years imprisonment.
The government has banned all protests against the sentencing of the 11 blacks, who were convicted Nov. 18 in connection with widespread anti-government unrest that swept South Africa's black townships four years ago.Pretoria Supreme Court Judge Kees Van Dijkorst handed down the sentences after four days of hearings during which prominent witnesses defended the 11 men and their association with the United Democratic Front, the anti-apartheid umbrella group.
Van Dijkorst said he hoped the sentences would be viewed as "fair and moderate," comparing them with the life terms given in 1964 to outlawed African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela and eight others fighting to topple minority white rule.
Four of the defendants convicted of treason received sentences ranging from six years to 12 years, with the most severe going to United Democratic Front Publicity Secretary Patrick Lekota. In 1975, Lekota was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on terrorism charges, prompting the judge to hand down a 12-year sentence Thursday on grounds Lekota had "scant respect for the law."