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In a trial that much of the world condemned, Mandela and twelve other ANC leaders received life sentences.
Nelson Mandela sat in a jail cell on South Africa’s infamous Robben Island, a former penal and leper colony that now served as a warehouse for the nation’s political activists. Mandela had just been convicted of plotting and carrying out acts of sabotage against the apartheid government, which denied black South Africans equal rights. A long-time political activist from a distinguished family, Mandela had been the leader of an armed group within the African National Congress, which was campaigning to end racial discrimination and segregation. When the white-controlled government began to suppress black protests with great violence and went so far as to ban the ANC itself, Mandela believed there were no alternatives left if black South Africans were to be free. In 1962, he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for leading an illegal workers’ strike; two years later, nearly two dozen top ANC leaders were arrested and charged with over 200 acts of sabotage. In a trial that much of the world condemned, Mandela and twelve other ANC leaders received life sentences.
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