The ringleader of a white supremacist group that tried to overthrow the South African government and assassinate former president Nelson Mandela in 2002 was sentenced Tuesday to 35 years in jail.
Judge Eben Jordaan of Pretoria's High Court handed down sentences ranging from five to 35 years to leader Mike du Toit and 20 other members of the Boeremag, Agence France-Presse reported.
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Most sentences were suspended by 10 years because of time served since around 2002, and nine of the defendants will go home Wednesday, National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Medupe Simasiku said in a statement.
The white supremacist militia group reportedly planted bombs in mosques, railway stations, and gas stations throughout the predominantly black town of Soweto in Johannesburg in 2002, and also put an explosive along a route Mandela was scheduled to travel on, according to The Telegraph
. A woman was killed in her home by one of the blasts and dozens were injured.
The assassination attempt was botched, however, when Mandela opted to travel by helicopter.
"They almost succeeded. It was extremely close," head investigator Tollie Vreugdenburg told AFP.
Some members of the Boeremag were convicted of culpable homicide and treason, while others were hit with a charge for conspiring to murder.
"Although it has taken over a decade to come to a close, it is a good thing that these men have finally been sentenced," Georgina Alexander, a politics and government researcher at the South African Institute of Race Relations, said in a statement. "It sends a clear message that violence against the State in South Africa will not be tolerated and these men should be sent to prison not only for what they managed to do but also for what they had planned to do."
Mandela, 95, was South Africa's first black president credited with overturning apartheid. He's suffered a series of health problems in recent years, but was finally discharged from the hospital in September following a three-month stay.
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