Thursday, April 2, 2009

JOHANNESBURG (AP) - A judge sentenced three men convicted of murdering an internationally known South African reggae star in a botched carjacking to life in prison Thursday.

Lucky Dube’s 2007 killing drew worldwide attention to crime in South Africa, which has one of the world’s highest murder rates. The 43-year-old singer was gunned down in his car in front of his children in suburban Johannesburg.

“The accused showed no mercy for the deceased,” Judge Seun Moshidi said. “It is difficult for the court to extend any mercy today.”

Sifiso Mhlanga, Mbuti Mabe and Julius Gxowa were convicted Tuesday in Dube’s death. Hours before the verdict was announced, Mabe and Mhlanga assaulted police officers in a foiled bid to escape from the court.

Thokozani Dube, who was in the car when his father was shot, broke into tears as the sentences were announced and was comforted by his mother. “I’m satisfied. … I have closure,” he later said outside the courtroom.

Dube’s family members and their supporters gathered outside the courthouse and sang South Africa’s national anthem.

“I’m happy with the ruling even though it will never bring him back,” said Thuthukani Cele, a keyboardist who had worked with Dube for 24 years.

He vowed to keep Dube’s spirit alive, saying: “We owe it to Lucky and the world. … We just wanted to finish this before we open a new chapter.”

Dube, who launched his career in the 1980s with criticism of the apartheid regime, went on to become a huge international star. He recorded more than 20 albums and shared stages with the likes of Michael Jackson, Peter Gabriel, Ziggy Marley and Sting.

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