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S. Africa killers get 18 years

A South African judge sentenced three black men to 18 years in prison Wednesday for what he termed the racially motivated, "cold-blooded and brutal" murder of American Fulbright scholar Amy Biehl.

The prosecution had sought death sentences for Mongesi Manqina, 22, Mzikhona Nofemela, 19, and Vusumzi Ntamo, 21, who were convicted Tuesday of killing Biehl, who was white, in Cape Town's Guguletu black township in August 1993.

"It was cold-blooded and brutal and carried out by a mob on a defenseless 26-year-old girl who was already seriously injured," Supreme Court Judge Gerald Friedman said in passing sentence.

"She was a young girl with her whole life ahead of her. She was American and an active supporter of the cause of the disadvantaged," he told the packed court.

There were some whistles from the gallery, but the three young men stood without emotion.

Biehl, from Newport Beach, Calif., was on a 10-month research fellowship at Cape Town's mainly black University of the Western Cape.

On her last day there she was attacked in her car and stoned and stabbed to death after driving friends home to the township.

Friedman, who will hear a defense request to appeal the sentences today, said Biehl was killed because she was white.

"This is a highly aggravating factor. Racially motivated crimes can never be tolerated," he said.

The three killers were members of the youth wing of the radical Pan Africanist Congress, which had campaigned before April's historic all-race elections on the slogan "One settler, one bullet," referring to whites.

Friedman said Biehl's murder was committed against a political backdrop and the court accepted that there was political unrest in the area at the time. Political violence was reaching a peak late last year ahead of the April elections.

But the judge said the accused had shown no remorse, and little weight could be attached to defense arguments of the political nature of the crime.

"It is significant that not everyone who lived in that area was driven to violence," Friedman said.