Percy Yutar – The man who Jailed Nelson Mandela

Percy Yutar was a prominent South African lawyer and prosecutor, known for his role in the Rivonia Trial that led to the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists. But Yutar’s career was much more than just this one high-profile case. Over the course of his life, he made significant contributions to the legal profession in South Africa and helped shape the country’s legal system.

Percy Yutar was born in Johannesburg in 1911, the son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. He grew up in a working-class family and attended local schools before going on to study law at the University of the Witwatersrand. Yutar was an excellent student, and he quickly distinguished himself as a talented legal mind. After completing his studies, Yutar began his legal career as a prosecutor in Johannesburg. He quickly gained a reputation as a skilled litigator, and he was soon appointed as the Deputy Attorney-General of the Transvaal Province. In this role, he was responsible for prosecuting some of the most high-profile cases in South Africa, including cases involving political activists and members of the African National Congress.

Yutar’s most famous case was the Rivonia Trial, which began in 1963 and lasted for several months. The trial involved Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists who were accused of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. Yutar served as the lead prosecutor in the case, and his aggressive tactics and harsh cross-examination of the defendants earned him both praise and criticism.

President Nelson Mandela talks with Percy Yutar, the prosecutor in the Rivonia treason trial in which Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment

Despite Yutar’s efforts, Mandela and his co-defendants were ultimately convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial is now seen as a turning point in the struggle against apartheid, and Yutar’s role in it is still debated to this day. After the Rivonia Trial, Yutar continued to work as a prosecutor and lawyer in South Africa. He was appointed as the Director of Public Prosecutions for the Transvaal Province in 1969, a position he held until his retirement in 1979. Yutar was known for his commitment to justice and his belief in the rule of law. He was also a strong advocate for human rights, and he worked to ensure that all South Africans were treated fairly under the law.

Percy Yutar passed away in 2002 at the age of 91, but his legacy lives on. He is remembered as one of South Africa’s most prominent legal figures, and his contributions to the country’s legal system are still felt today. Despite his controversial role in the Rivonia Trial, Yutar is respected for his dedication to justice and his unwavering commitment to upholding the law. His life serves as an example of how one person can make a difference, even in the face of immense challenges and opposition.

Percy Yutar was a complex figure whose career was defined by both triumphs and controversies. But through it all, he remained true to his principles and his commitment to justice. Today, we remember him as a legal giant who made a lasting impact on South Africa’s legal system and helped shape the country’s future.

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