Johannesburg (CNSNews.com) - It was an emotional scene outside the Wynberg Magistrate's Court on Monday when one of the most wanted men in the United States - James Kilgore - appeared for his extradition hearing. A crowd of about 50 supporters cheered and shouted with raised fists as Kilgore was lead away.
Kilgore, the last member of the Symbionese Liberation Army to be arrested, has been on the run for 27 years. He's wanted in connection with a deadly 1975 bank robbery in Sacramento, Calif., and on federal pipe bombing charges.
The SLA, a radical 1970s group, gained worldwide notoriety in 1974 when it kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst, who later joined her captors in their crime sprees.
Kilgore and his wife Terri Barnes, a history academic, have lived in South Africa since at least the early 1990s, moving here from Zimbabwe. In 1997 they moved to Cape Town with their two sons, now ages 8 and 11.
"We are waiting for a formal extradition request and then our courts will have to decide whether he is extraditable" police spokeswomen, Mary Martins- Engelbrecht told CNSNews.com .
But she added he would not be returned to the United States unless Washington offers assurances that he would not face execution, which is outlawed under South Africa's post-apartheid constitution.
The Constitutional Court censured South Africa's justice department last year for handing fugitive Khalfan Mohamed over to the United States for trial following the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Mohamed, who was also arrested in Cape Town, was convicted in July last year and sentenced to life in prison.
The secret life of John Pape, as Kilgore was known to his friends, came to an end last Friday, when South African detectives swooped down on his suburban home in Claremont, Cape Town.
Kilgore, an academic and left-wing thinker at the University of Cape Town, was on the University board, and he had built a respectable life as beyond academia as well, as a husband and a father.
Kilgore served as a champion of the poor and did extensive work in Cape Town's impoverish townships.
The FBI suspected for years that Kilgore was somewhere in Africa. "The final break in the case came about 10 days ago," said FBI spokesman Mark Mershon. "It happened through good old fashioned legwork," he added.
Kilgore's arrest came after four other aging SLA members appeared in a Sacramento court last Thursday. All pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of a customer in a suburban Sacramento bank they tried to rob in April 1975.
William Harris, Emily Harris Montague, Michael Bortin and Sara Jane Olson - the latter, Kilgore's former girlfriend - pleaded guilty as part of a deal that will send them to jail for six to eight years. The plea bargain spared them a murder trial that could have meant life in prison.