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White Ex-Policeman Sentenced To Hang For Mass Murder of Blacks

May 25, 1989 GMT

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) _ A regional court today sentenced a white ex-policeman to hang for killing seven blacks and an Indian man in two shooting sprees he took pride in and viewed as the start of a race war.

Justice Louis Harms said there were no extenuating circumstances to spare Barend Strydom, 23, from the gallows.

The killings were committed ″in an unfeeling and cold-blooded manner that I have never before experienced or heard of,″ Harms said. ″Mass murder or racial murder will not be tolerated by this court.″

The case has been one of the most dramatic in South Africa, with relatives of the black victims and white extremists supportive of Strydom crowding into Pretoria Supreme Court over the past 10 days to hear detailed testimony about the defendant’s racist beliefs.

After the sentencing, the white-supremacist Boerestaat Party announced the start of a campaign to seek clemency for Strydom. The party leader, Robert von Tonder, described the defendant as ″a sensitive Afrikaner patriot.″

After standing impassively for an hour while the judge read his ruling, Strydom gulped a glass of water when the sentence was pronounced.

He strode into the packed courtroom smiling broadly, waving to friends and shaking hands with supporters. After the sentencing he was escorted swiftly to a police van and driven to a death row cell at Pretoria Central Prison.

The judge convicted Strydom last week of killing seven people and wounding 15 blacks in a rampage on the sidewalks of downtown Pretoria on Nov. 15.

A week before the Pretoria killings, Strydom killed a black woman and wounded another at a squatter camp in what he described as a practice attack to determine if he was ready for a larger-scale massacre.

Strydom had acknowledged that he smiled as he shot his victims, telling the court, ″I’m a friendly person.″

The judge gave Strydom eight death sentences plus 30 years in prison for 16 counts of attempted murder. No execution date was set.

Police vehicles blocked streets leading to the court. Scores of officers stood guard inside and outside the courtroom, packed with about 100 spectators. More than 200 people, most of them black, waited in a small park across from the courthouse.

Strydom had testified that he had fired the first shots in a ″war of freedom″ on behalf of whites threatened by the country’s black majority. ″I’d do it again,″ he told the court.

His father, also a former policeman, testified that he believed blacks were animals, not humans.

Both father and son belong to the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi group that seeks to establish a whites-only state. Other members of the movement attended the trial to show solidarity with Strydom.

Psychiatrists appointed by the state concluded that Strydom was sane and responsible for his actions. Strydom’s lawyer, Johan Englebrecht, argued Wednesday that the defendant’s guilt was lessened by various factors, including the racist ideology he learned from his father.

However, the prosecutor, Paul Fick, said South African judges repeatedly had ruled that political motives could not be accepted as extenuating circumstances.

Under South African law, the death sentence is mandatory in murder cases unless the judge determines that there were mitigating circumstances.

Also today, three black men in Pretoria prison’s death row were hanged, bringing to 24 the number of executions this year.

Those hanged were: Simon Mbatha, 35, convicted of murdering two white policeman in March 1987; Patrick Mosomi, sentenced last year for murdering a black woman; and Abraham Mngomezuluh, who was convicted of killing a black man in Soweto in 1987.