Mandela assassination plot trial begins

The treason trial of 22 white extremists accused of plotting to assassinate Nelson Mandela and overthrow the South African government opened in Pretoria today.

The treason trial of 22 white extremists accused of plotting to assassinate Nelson Mandela and overthrow the South African government opened in Pretoria today.

Six of the men pleaded not guilty in the first treason trial since the end of the racist apartheid regime.

Proceedings began following four postponements in a dispute over legal representation.

The accused face 42 charges including high treason, murder, attempted murder, terrorism and the illegal possession of weapons.

Thirteen of the 22 men challenged the jurisdiction of the court, while two men elected to plead at a later stage.

One refused to plead and the court entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

Arguing for the men who do not recognise the court’s legitimacy, defence lawyer Paul Kruger said the Constitution was invalid because white voters were not consulted before it was approved.

He also claimed the 1994 elections – the first all race election’s in the country’s history – were “irregular”.

The 22 men, who the state says all belonged to an extreme right-wing group called Boeremag, or Farmers Force, are accused of murdering Claudia Mokone, who was killed in a bomb blast in Soweto in October 2002.

Prosecutors also said the group conspired to kill Nelson Mandela with a plan to blow up a car taking the former president to a public event.

Mandela foiled the alleged plot by choosing to travel by helicopter.

The state is arguing that the men plotted to kill off the country’s majority black population or drive them from South Africa to set up their own state.

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