S. African apartheid assassin jailed for life
But Eugene de Kock may evade major prison time
October 30, 1996
From Correspondent Mike Hanna
Web posted at: 3:15 p.m. EST (2015 GMT)
PRETORIA, South Africa (CNN) -- Eugene de Kock, an assassin
for South Africa's former whites-only government, was
sentenced to life in prison Wednesday. The former head of a
secret police unit, known by his colleagues as "Prime Evil,"
is the highest ranking officer convicted so far for apartheid
A life sentence is the maximum possible in South Africa,
where the death penalty has been abolished. There remains a
chance, however, that de Kock, 47, will not have to serve any
significant prison time following his 18-month trial.
Is amnesty justified?
He has asked for amnesty from South Africa's Truth and
Reconciliation Commission. The panel, headed by Nobel Peace
Prize-winner Desmond Tutu, can free perpetrators of human
rights abuses who confess and prove their deeds were
But Catherine Mlangeni, whose son's head was blown off in 1991 by
booby-trapped cassette player mailed by de Kock, said she's
seen no evidence that the ex-police colonel is remorseful.
"Many times I go to Pretoria (for the trial). (There's no)
sign that he is sorry for us. Why should I be sorry for him
so he gets amnesty?"
Bheki Mlangeni, who left a widow and son, was a lawyer for the now ruling African National Congress (ANC).
"De Kock thinks he (only) killed Bheki. But he also killed
Bheki's family. We are suffering," said the victim's brother,
De Kock "should have died while he was in his mother's
stomach. This man is cruel," cried an angry woman outside the
courthouse after the sentencing.
Punishment for others sought
Tutu called de Kock's life sentence justified but said those
who gave him his orders should also be called to account. In
a similar criticism, the judge who sentenced de Kock to two
concurrent life terms as well as 212 years in prison for his
other crimes blamed the apartheid system for creating the
atmosphere in which de Kock could operate.
"It was the rotten system that prevailed that allowed him to
conduct his activities. That same system enabled him to hide
his crimes," Judge Willem van der Merwe said in court.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) called on the
white-led National Party to disclose past state secrets.
"Now is the time for National Party leader F.W. de Klerk to
come clean in the spirit of reconciliation and peace," the
ANC said in a statement.
Convicted of six murders
De Kock was convicted in August of six murders of black
anti-apartheid activists and scores of lesser crimes, from
conspiracy to murder to fraud.
In the 1980s he was in charge of a secret police unit based
at Vlakplaas farm, outside Pretoria, where the elimination of
troublesome anti-government activists was planned.
He told the court in September, in testimony aimed at
reducing the severity of his sentences, that his superiors in
the police and government, including then-president P.W.
Botha, had full knowledge of what he was doing.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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