Trial postponed in S.African far-right leader's murder

3rd May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The trial of two farm workers charged with bludgeoning to death a South African white separatist leader was postponed Tuesday after a change in lawyers for one of the accused.

The workers were due to stand trial for the April 2010 killing of Eugene Terre'Blanche, the leader of the far-right Afrikaner Resistance Movement, a militant group that violently opposed the end of apartheid.

But after a change in attorneys for 29-year-old Chris Mahlangu last week, high court judge John Horn gave the defence until Monday to continue preparing, saying he would decide then whether to delay the trial further.

Khomotso Tlowane, Mahlangu's new lawyer, said he needed time to find new witnesses and forensic experts to examine DNA samples found at the scene.

His client's original lawyer resigned last week from the high-profile case, which he had been handling for free. A new attorney was appointed by the country's public defence office, Legal Aid South Africa.

"Accused number one (Mahlangu) faces serious charges with the possibility of life imprisonment. There has been so much interest, like any other accused, he needs to be properly represented," Tlowane said.

Terre'Blanche was hacked to death at his farm house outside the northwest town of Ventersdorp on April 3 last year.

Two black workers on the farm, Mahlangu and a 16-year-old, were charged with the killing after handing themselves in to police, allegedly saying they had fought with their employer over pay. The minor cannot be identified under South African law.

The murder shocked the country and highlighted the racial tensions that continue to divide South Africa 17 years after the end of apartheid.

Terre'Blanche's followers had vowed revenge as President Jacob Zuma appealed for calm. No violence has been reported in connection with the case.

Terre'Blanche rose to notoriety as co-founder and leader of the militant AWB, which opposed the first democratic elections in 1994 with a series of bomb attacks that killed 21 people.

But the 69-year-old had sunk into relative obscurity at the time of his death, and his group now exists only on the fringes of South African society.

© 2011 AFP

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