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Three Sentenced to Death for Car Bomb Killing

November 19, 1988

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Three members of the former Rhodesian security forces, two whites and a black, were sentenced to death Friday for the death of a man in a car bomb attack on the African National Congress.

They were convicted in the death of Obert Mwanza, a jobless Zambian they recruited to help in the attack. Mwanza died when the explosives were detonated by remote control Jan. 11 outside a house in Bulawayo occupied by the ANC, the main guerrilla group fighting white domination in neighboring South Africa.

The defendants are Kevin Woods, 35, and Michael Smith, 34, both white, and Phillip Conjwayo, 54, who is black. They were members of the security forces in Rhodesia, a white-ruled British colony that in 1980 became Zimbabwe, with a black majority government.

Their sentences will be appealed automatically to the Supreme Court but probably not for a year, court officers said.

Judge Wilson Sandura, sitting with two civilian assessors in the High Court, said each defendant played a key role in the bombing, which he said was conducted on behalf of South Africa, and there no extenuating circumstances.

Woods belonged to the Central Intelligence Organization security police in Rhodesia, Smith was a soldier in the Rhodesian Light Infantry and Conjwayo served in the Rhodesian police Special Branch. They pleaded innocent to all charges.

Sandura found them guilty of murder under a provision of Zimbabwe’s Roman- Dutch law allowing guilt through collaboration.

Before sentencing, Woods and Smith defended the plot but expressed regret that a civilian was killed.

″Our only motivation was on behalf of the people of South Africa, who suffer mayhem and death nearly on a daily basis at the hands of these ANC murderers,″ Woods said. ″And the countries which harbor these murderers must look first to their own consciences before pointing the finger at us.″

Conjwayo said he was framed and tortured by police. He admitted buying the car where the explosives were placed but said he did not know how it would be used.

Woods and Smith face a further trial on charges, along with a third man, of bombing ANC targets in 1986.

After sentencing, the defendants were handcuffed to prison wardens, put in leg irons and escorted from the court building by an armored personnel carrier full of soldiers and a truck mounted with an anti-aircraft gun.

A Zimbabwe air force helicopter pilot and a group of commandos tried to rescue the three in July. The pilot escaped in a stolen plane but the alleged rescue leader, British-born Charles Behan, was arrested and awaits trial.

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