A black man was sentenced to death for treason today and 11 others were sent to prison for between 13 to 18 years.
The death sentence imposed on James Mange, 24, was the first for treason in South Africa's history. The last time the death sentence was ordered for a political crime that did not involve a killing was in World War II.
The 12 were charged with high treason, sabotage and antigovernment activities for a series of alleged attacks last year on government facilities and police.
When they were captured, all 12 defendants were carrying Soviet-made weapons and had received military training abroad in Marxist countries, the government said. The defendants, said to be members of the outlawed African National Congress, which seeks the overthrow of the white minority government, were not accused on working together as a group.
The defendants had pleaded not guilty but later dismissed their lawyers and refused to recognize the court.
The guilty verdict and sentencing came at the end of a stormy trial that saw the judge clear the courtroom three times and charge the defendants with contempt 15 times.
During the sentencing, the defendants defied the court with freedom songs and shouts of "Down With Fascism!" and "Long Live Brezhnev!" The 11 who did not receive the death penalty were given an additional year sentence for today's courtroom outcry.