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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 12:04 GMT
SA police jailed for dog attacks
Video showing suspect being attacked by police dogs
The video shocked South Africa
Four white South African policemen have received jail sentences for setting their dogs on three black Mozambicans.

The charges stemmed from a video discovered late last year which showed the officers laughing and jeering as their dogs savaged the men.

The act was cruel and sadistic - They laughed and treated it as a joke

Judge Willem van der Merwe

The policemen were sentenced for aggravated assault by Pretoria High Court to jail terms, in effect, of between four and five years each.

The broadcasting of the video provoked an intense public outcry and raised concerns about continuing racism among South African police, years after the end of apartheid.

Robert Henzen, 32, Eugene Truter, 28, Jacobus Smith, 31 and Lodewyk Kock, 32, pleaded guilty last week to assaulting the three illegal immigrants in 1998.

Two other officers, who pleaded not guilty, will have their own full trial process.

Vicious attack

Judge Willem van der Merwe described what the policemen did as "cruel and sadistic".

"They laughed and treated it as a joke. The three witnesses are clearly emotionally scarred and it was obviously intensely traumatic," he said.

Scene from the police video
The policemen said they were training the more inexperienced dogs

The graphic video, filmed by one of the six white officers in early 1998, captured another defendant describing the attack as a dog training exercise.

The dogs savaged the legs, arms and faces of the three black men.

The policemen ignored their desperate pleas for mercy, encouraging the dogs to attack while kicking and punching the men when they tried to fend off the animals.

Before broadcasters got hold of the video, the court heard that it was screened at police parties as entertainment.

Several recent cases involving white on black violence in South Africa resulted in what are widely perceived as lenient sentences for the white offenders.

The BBC's Barnaby Phillips in Pretoria
"South Africa cannot afford to tolerate such blatant racism"
The BBC's Carolyn Dempster in Johannesburg
"Illegal immigrants were chosen becuase they were vulnerable and not likely to report assaults to the authorities"
See also:

28 Aug 00 | Africa
South Africa's new racism
22 Nov 00 | Africa
SA police dogs 'should be killed'
29 Aug 00 | Africa
Apartheid 'still alive' in SA
30 Aug 00 | Africa
South Africa: Racism runs deep
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