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sed Lara to leave South Africa.

when

stockings over their heads turned in front of me and forced me to

s

HE'S probably fl hting for a lost cause ut it's one born of lov - the unlikely love of a white South African woman who I ft the country because of cri ,and ended up falling in love ith a b ~: American murdere . 'I he warrior is Lara J activist, champion of the sed and eternal optimist In Sacramento, Califo woman with the Africa smiles when she describ self as the "farm girl" fro. rust before talking ab battle she's waging for band's freedom, She's m Demian Johnson (34), a rican who's already sp years in jail for murder. Ever since she marrie year ago, she's been ca ing for his release. Altho gained widespread sup his parole application. turned down last month.

plaits s herVolksut the r husried to Ament 15 him a paigngh she art for it was

scratch. Volksrust's Lara is alking about a hunger strike on the f\lowofthe "farm girl" le is[tarting steps Sacramento's islative building. HER parents Clive an Anne Johnstone still live on t e farm Gerizim where Lara g ew up and first came into cant ct with convicts. Little did sh know then the role they woul to play in her life.

come

hired convicts to work on the "I remember dadt always farm," she says. "Imy used chat to them."

1

- was later released a d now One of also a ~urderer works forthem her - parents on the

,,~ I

L.:lght years ago a tf:lumatic experience in JOhannestiJrg cau1 58

"I was on my way home late at night three armed men with

YOU ,4

stop. I put my car into reverse and hooted. At the same time a taxi stopped at the scene and the men jumped into their car and drove off. "I got home safely but was in shock. When my car was broken into that night I decided I'd had enough. " She set off into the big wide world after joining up as a deckhand on a ship in Durban and eventually landed up in London. From there she went to America - a decision' which was to have a radical effect on her life. ONE night in Washington she was. surfing the Internet on her computer when she came across news of the terrible attack on Rob Kaplan in his Johannesburg home, which YOU reported on at the time. "It was so shocking I asked myself: What can I do so far from home to make a positive contribution to fighting the increasing crime in South Africa? I was particularly worried about my parents on the farm. "You can catch criminals and lock them up, build more prisons and lock up thousands more, but there has to be another solution. "I researched all sources on the Internet, especially other solutions that have achieved something. I decided I also had to talk MAIN PICTURE: Lara Johnson on the steps of California's legislative building where she plans to go on hunger strike. FAR RIGHT: Demian and Lara on their wedding day in Sacramenta prison. RIGHT: Lam during

a recent demonstration

by women in Sacramenta. With her is Martine Walker, a German woman a/so married to an

American in prison.

SE.PTF..M!1E~ 1>:'9 .; ,.~""r-


¡/.~" F'"

I

murder of a taxi driver. He didn't

r&d the crime, what we t wrong. I I')'~~~;~ers - why the commitwanted insight into th criminal mind. "That's how I he - .')emian and we start ponding," Demian spoke can, honestly about the i raised. "I immediatelf got the impression he was ex~eptionally intelligent." It was only later Lar discovered tt.e man with who! she had an immediate rapp was a black American w o'd been convicted of m rder. He was found guil in 1993 of the secon degree

~

L

pull the trigger but the fire:mn belonged to him. He got a 15year to life sentence. Lara and Demian were soon phoning each other and exchanging pictures. Lard wa..c; in a relationship with a police captain in Washington but soon Demian, thousands of kilometres away on the other side of America, was more than a friend. She split up with the policeman. "You could call it an internet relationship," she says. "Demian and I soon realised we were meant for each other. I got to know the man behind the pictures well - we were in love.

wife? Will you marry me?' " They were married in prison on October 11 last year. She met him for the first time in the flesh a

IT was a huge disapPoi~~~ when Demian's parole application was turned down last month.

week before the marriage. A day before the wedding she moved to San Francisco from Washington, her wedding gown and ring in her suitcase. Her wedding gown was ivory coloured with small African motifs. Oemian's mother and some of his relatives attended the

"At his last parole hearing they laid down conditions: stay out of trouble, get some kind of training, get a trade. Demian did everything and more - he stayed out of trouble, worked on his degree in business administration, learnt a trade and started an upliftment programme for his fellow prisoners, especially the younger ones. "We received support for his parole from South Africa;f'from my parents and residents of Volksrust. There were also let-

ceremony. After being married by a magistrate, they were allowed to hug and kiss briefly but that was all. Lara spent the first night of her married life in her mother-in-

'f.

boeremeisie and the killer

:~i! law's home. Demian was sent back in his cell. That was a year

ago. EVERY Saturd.ay Lara gets into her dilapidated bakkie in San Francisco and drives an hour and a half to the Sacramento prison, where she spends a few hours with her husband under the watchful eyes of the wardens. She's excited at the prospect of a possible overnight visit with her husband in a private apartment on the prison premises. "I'm not looking for sympathy. I walked into this marriage with open eyes. I knew he was in jail, I knew about his sentence and his "Although we'd never seen or held each other, I knew I loved him. Not so much his person as his passion, his mind. When Oemian called one day and asked me to marry him I said yes immediately. "I still remember his words, 'Lara, there's something 1want to get off my chest. Will you be my

crime," she says. "The fact is I love Demian Jonnson, even if he has to spend another 10 or 1 5 years in jail. "Meanwhile we'll both continue our work. I'm working in the interests of the prisoners and their families and Oemian is doing his best for his fellow inmates. That is our contribution to society."

ters from America, Australia and England. And there were several offers of work for Demian if his parole application succeeded." Now he has to wait until 2002 to reapply for parole. tJ1eanwhiie Lara is talking about a possible appeal against his original sentence, about greater media and political coverage of the lot of all prisoners and the hunger strike. "I don't regard Demian as a murderer or criminal. He's simply someone who made a big mistake. He's accepted the responsibility and paid his debt." The day he's a free man she wants to take him back to Volksrust. "That's where my heart is and where we can make a contribution. Oemian has developed a great love for South Africa and we want to work together on the farm for the community." • Lara has a web site (http:// www.amandla.orgl) with information about SACOPS (South African Communities Organising for Public Safety) and Demian's OSEPP (Organisation for Sensible an~ Effective Prison Policy).

D

YOU 24 SEPTEMBER 1998

159

Profile for Andrea Muhrrteyn

98-09-24: YOU: Volksrust Farmgirl Doomed for Love of Black Convict  

98-09-24: YOU: Volksrust Farmgirl Doomed for Love of Black Convict

98-09-24: YOU: Volksrust Farmgirl Doomed for Love of Black Convict  

98-09-24: YOU: Volksrust Farmgirl Doomed for Love of Black Convict

Profile for js-ror
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