A South African court has convicted a white pastor of planning to kill thousands of Black people in the country and overthrow the government.
On Monday, a jury found 61-year-old Harry Johannes Knoesen of the National Christian Resistance Movement guilty of high treason, incitement to carry out violent attacks, and recruiting people to commit attacks.
The prosecution stated that Knoesen put together a group of individuals that explored the possibility of using a biological weapon to infect and kill Black people. Among other ideas, the group discussed poisoning water reservoirs that supply Black communities.
In addition to those charges, Knoesen was also found guilty of unlawful possession of firearms. Police found weapons and ammunition when they arrested him.
South African police worked with intelligence services to foil the pastor’s plans in 2019 after members of Knoesen’s group reportedly provided authorities with evidence against the pastor. Authorities have dismantled the organization’s cells across various parts of the country and arrested some of its leaders.
Prosecutors alleged that Knoeson had “highly racial views” and planned to justify his beliefs and actions by using religion, claiming that he was ordained to “reclaim South Africa for white people.”
“To further this end, he planned to attack government institutions and more specifically police and military institutions,” Monica Nyuswa, a spokeswoman for the National Prosecuting Authority, told The Associated Press.
Authorities said the pastor used Facebook to incite violence against Black people and to recruit members of the South African military to join his movement and ultimately carry out the planned attacks.
In his testimony, Knoesen admitted to sharing “recipes” to manufacture explosives with his followers on Facebook, according to the Middelburg Observer newspaper.
Knoesen is expected back in court on June 10 for the beginning of sentencing proceedings.