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Mandela’s treason trial lawyer George Bizos dies at 92

Top South African human rights lawyer George Bizos, who defended Nelson Mandela on treason charges for which he escaped the death penalty, died on Wednesday aged 92, President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

The cause of the death was not immediately revealed.

“I have just received news that legal eagle of our country George Bizos has passed away,” Ramaphosa told reporters.

“This is very sad for our country.”

Bizos represented Mandela during the Rivonia Trial which saw Mandela and seven others sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 on charges of seeking to overthrow the racist apartheid government.

Many had expected the death penalty.

Ramaphosa described Bizos as one of the lawyers who “contributed immensely to the attainment of our democracy”.

“He had an incisive legal mind and was one of the architects of our constitution,” the president during an online media briefing.

A prominent anti-apartheid campaigner, Bizos practised as a lawyer into his late eighties.

One of his last major trials secured government payouts in 2014 for families of 34 miners shot dead by police at Marikana, northwest of Johannesburg, two years earlier.