The apartheid government responded to the Freedom Charter by arresting 156 participants of the Congress of the People, charging them with “high treason and a countrywide conspiracy to use violence to overthrow the present government and replace it with a communist state”.
The State declared the Freedom Charter to be treasonous, and being in possession of a copy was a crime. The Treason Trial lasted nearly five years, but all 156 accused were found not guilty and were acquitted. Nonetheless, the apartheid government decided to ban the Freedom Charter. Anyone caught with a copy in their possession could be sent to prison for five years.