Mandela’s treason trial lawyer dies at 92

Written by on September 10, 2020

George Bizos, an anti-apartheid icon and renowned human rights lawyer who defended Nelson Mandela on treason charges for which he escaped the death penalty, died on Wednesday aged 92.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the rights lawyer’s passing during an online media briefing.

“This is very sad for our country,” he said.

Bizos died of natural causes at his Johannesburg home, his family said in a statement.

The celebrated lawyer 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 said.

Bizos arrived in South Africa as a 13-year-old war refugee from Greece and became one of its most respected lawyers.

In a long career dedicated to defending democratic values and human rights, the soft-spoken Bizos represented a series of activists against the white minority regime and later helped to finalise the constitution of post-apartheid South Africa.

A beloved national figure, he continued working into his late 80s. 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.


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