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Saturday, July 25, 1998 Published at 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK

World: Americas

Klansmen must pay $38m for church arson

Several churches were burned down during 1995 and 1996

Members of a white supremacist group in the United States, the Ku Klux Klan, have been ordered to pay nearly $38m in damages for conspiring to burn down a predominantly black church in 1995.

The award by the Clarendon County Court in South Carolina is the biggest ever made for such a crime in the US.

Correspondent Liz Throssel: Lawyer determined to sue every dollar from KKK
Lawyers for the Macedonia Baptist Church argued that leaders of the KKK faction in South Carolina, and four Klan members currently serving prison sentences for arson, plotted to destroy the building.

The lawyer representing the KKK said the four imprisoned Klansmen had acted independently.

The South Carolina leader of the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Horace King, told the court that doing any harm to a church would be the work of the devil.

Video evidence

[ image: Horace King: 'White man's country']
Horace King: 'White man's country'
Our correspondent reports, however, that videotapes shown during the week-long civil trial contrasted with his subdued courtroom manner.

On tape, the Klan leader was heard using racist language and declaring that the area was "white man's country".

The jury took only 45 minutes to decide on the award. The Klan's lawyer said his clients would not be able to afford to pay a large amount in damages.

The fire was one of a series of arson attacks on southern black churches during 1995 and 1996.

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