Two members of the National Christian Resistance Movement, who were plotting the murder of black people as well overthrowing the government, have been sentenced to eight years imprisonment for planning terrorist activities.
Eric Donald Abrams, 55, and Erroll Abrams, 50, appeared in the Middelburg Regional Court on Tuesday where they were found guilty and sentenced in relation to the contravention of Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorism and Related Matters Act.
The two men, who are part of the right-wing group, also known as the Crusaders, were preparing and planning to carry out terrorist attacks on government institutions, including police stations and military outfits.
Their plans also involved the killing of black people, which included the targeting of informal settlements.
The attacks were planned for 28 November 2019, Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said in a statement.
The Hawks arrested both men in November 2019 and they have been in custody since.
Mogale said the court on Tuesday found both men guilty on six counts, including planning terrorist attacks, financing of terrorism, and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.
They received the following sentences:
- Count 1: 15 years imprisonment, of which seven years were for preparing and planning to carry out terrorist attacks.
- Count 2: Five years for financing of a specified offence (terrorism).
- Count 3: Five years for unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm.
- Count 4: Five years for unlawful possession of a firearm.
- Count 5: Five years for unlawful possession of ammunition.
- Count 6: Five years for unlawful possession of more than 200 cartridges.
Both men were effectively sentenced to eight years in prison, as all the sentences were ordered to run concurrently with the sentence for preparing and planning to carry out terrorist attacks.
“The court has further ordered in terms of Section 103 of the Firearms Control Act, that both accused are unfit to possess firearms, ammunition, competency certificates, licences, authorisation and permits,” Mogale said.
Hawks head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya commended the team of investigators and prosecutors for the work that had been done so far.
Meanwhile, the self-professed leader of the Crusaders and alleged main orchestrator, Harry Knoesen, was expected to appear in the Mpumalanga High Court in February 2021, for a trial date to be arranged after he pleaded not guilty.
Knoesen, a former pastor and soldier from Mpumalanga, was arrested after he posted videos and allegedly held meetings to carry out his plan.
A fourth accused, Riana Heymans, who was allegedly “radicalised”, was also arrested, but charges had since been withdrawn against her.
Knoesen allegedly recruited members and discussed his plans with members disillusioned with the current government.
He was said to have used WhatsApp, Facebook and a messaging platform called Telegram before moving to in-person meetings.
The leader of the Crusaders had also allegedly asked for help to get weapons from a person who used to be in the security forces, telling the person that everything was ready for the “coup d’état”.
It was reported that Knoesen postponed the attacks for 28 November in order to recruit more members, however, the Abrams brothers were “so radicalised” that they decided to nevertheless carry out an attack on 29 November 2019, at midnight.
They were arrested before the attacks could be executed.
At the time, the Hawks said components and ingredients for the manufacture of pipe bombs were seized, as well as unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
A search of a property linked to the Crusaders in the Eastern Cape also revealed an explosives factory.
The attacks were to be centred around Middelburg, Brakpan, Centurion, Roodepoort, Randburg, Nelspruit, Bethlehem, Brits, Ermelo, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Meyerton, Muldersdrift and the Sterkfontein Dam.