Boeremag families shocked at sentences

Sentences range from five years to the maximum 35 years.

FILE: Boeremag accused and their lawyers in the North Gauteng High Court in 2012. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN.

PRETORIA - Some family members of the Boeremag accused on Tuesday said they are shocked at the heavy sentences handed down in the North Gauteng High Court on Tuesday.

Sentences range from five years to the maximum 35 years.

At least 20 men were involved in the treason plot.

All the men were convicted of high treason last year, while five were found guilty on the additional charges of culpable homicide and conspiracy to commit murder.

FILE: (L to R) Machiel Adriaan Burger, Johannes Dion van den Heever, Pieter Gabriel van Deventer, Frederick Johannes Naude and Jacques Olivier, members of the Boeremag, seated in the dock on 19 May 2003. Picture: AFP.

Gasps of disbelief came from gallery before families started sobbing when Judge Eben Jordaan handed down maximum sentences to four suspects.

These men, including Herman van Rooyen and Rudi Gouws, who escaped from police custody and were rearrested, were responsible for planting bombs and the plot to kill former president Nelson Mandela.

The other men received sentences of between five and 20 years, depending on their degree of involvement in the coup plot.

FILE: Kobus Pretorius peers through the window of a police vehicle as he arrives in court during the Boeremag trial on 4 August 2003. Picture: AFP.

The judge took into consideration that almost half of the accused have spent up to 11 years in jail, which means some of them will walk away today as free men.

While there is the hope this has brought an end to one of the longest running and most expensive trials in South African legal history, there remains the prospect of appeals against these sentences.

It's estimated around R30 million in tax money was spent on legal aid fees for the accused.