The Anglican Dean of Johannesburg, the Very Rev. Gonville french-Beytagh was sentenced in pretoria yesterday?
The Anglican Dean of Johannesburg, the Very Rev. Gonville french-Beytagh was sentenced in pretoria yesterday (Monday, 1 November) to five years imprisonment for terrorism.
After a two-month trial the Dean, who is 59, was found guilty by the Supreme Court of engaging-in activities aimed at the "violent overthrow of the State". These offences included incitement to violence and chanelling funds from overseas to outlawed people and organisations in South Africa. He is to appeal and was freed on bail until the hearing next March.
The sentencing has reportedly brought the government of Prime Minister John Vorster under strong pressure over its stern Terrorism Act. The trial of the Dean has spotlighted the sweeping powers of the Act, the authority of the police in using it as a weapon against suspect subversives and especially the application of indefinite detention without trial.
The Dean has for many years publicly criticised the "apartheid" - or separate development policy of the African government. Within his own parish around St Mary's Cathedral he has carried all religious and social responsibilities disregarding distinction between races. Throughout his trial he enjoyed the support of several of South Africa's church leaders. His sentence has reportedly fanned further dissent between Church and State.
SYNOPSIS: At Pretoria on Monday the Anglican Dean of Johannesburg was sentenced to five years imprisonment for terrorism. After a two-month trial the Very Rev. Gonville french-Beytagh was found guilty of engaging in activities aimed at the "violent overthrow of the State". Earlier, the 59-year-old Dean's face was ashen and he swayed at the Supreme Court's verdict But he recovered his spirits well enough to greet a crowd of about 200 Whites and Africans who applauded him outside the courthouse, singing "Onward Christian Soldiers". He is to appeal and was freed on bail until the hearing next March.
At his Church - the Cathedral of St Mary - the Dean, a tramp and tobacco farmer before his ordination, has carried his opposition to South Africa's apartheid policy into his everyday work.
Here, before his trial, he attacked apartheid from the pulpit and in his parish magazine. He criticised the Government for conditions in the African tribal areas and for forced removals of non-Whites from the "White" areas where they had lived for years. The Dean's troubles with the authorities began shortly after he moved to Johannesburg in 1966 from Salisbury - where at Easter he would wash the feet of Africans outside the cathedral.
Since then and throughout his trial, fellow Churchmen have mounted protests at the sweeping powers of the South African security police. They have accused the police of misusing the stern Terrorism Act as a weapon against government critics.
But the Dean was found guilty for offences including incitement to violence and chanelling funds from overseas to outlawed people and organisations in South Africa. He firmly denied this. After the trial he described his first reaction was "one of anger". "I'm just hopping made, I'm innocent", he added.