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Mandela's lawyer, anti-apartheid activist George Bizos passes away aged 92

Top South African human rights lawyer George Bizos, who famously defended Nelson Mandela, passed away on Wednesday aged 92.

His family said he “died peacefully at home of natural causes”.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa described Bizos as an “incisive legal mind” who had “contributed immensely to our democracy.” He added that his death was “very sad for us as a country.”

Advocate George Bizos, famous for helping Nelson Mandela avoid the death penalty at the during the notorious 1963/64 Rivonia Trial, led a lifetime of service to human rights and morality.

“The friendship between him (Bizos) and Mandela spanned more than seven decades and was legendary,” nonprofit organisation, the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement.

Born in Greece in 1927, Bizos came to South Africa with his father in 1941 after they were picked up by a Royal Navy battleship. Bizos, then 13, and his father, Antonios Bizos, the mayor of Vasilitsi, had drifted on the Mediterranean for three days after helping seven New Zealand soldiers escape to Crete from the Greek mainland.

He completed his law degree at the University of Witwatersrand in 1951 and was admitted to the Johannesburg Bar in 1950. He served as an advocate in Johannesburg until 1990, according to the foundation.

In a long career dedicated to defending democratic values and human rights, the soft-spoken Bizos represented the country’s best known political activists.

Bizos was married to Arethe “Rita” Daflos, who passed away in 2017. They have three sons- Alexis, Damon and Kimon.

Bizos wrote several books in his lifetime, including Odyssey to Freedom (2009), an autobiography, and No One to Blame?: In Pursuit of Justice in South Africa (1998), in which he gives a personal account of the steady erosion of justice in South Africa during the apartheid years.

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