Wednesday, April 15, 2009

10 JEM rebels sentenced to death for Khartoum attack

From Reuters Wed Apr 15, 2009 by Khalid Abdel Aziz:
Darfur rebels sentenced to death for Khartoum attack
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A Sudanese court on Wednesday sentenced to death 10 members of the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) for an unprecedented 2008 attack on the Sudanese capital.

The men were found guilty of involvement in the attack on the Khartoum suburb of Omdurman in May 2008. Three others were acquitted and will be freed, the court said.

After the sentence was announced, the men raised their shackled hands and shouted in unison "Allah Akbar" (God is great) and "Revolution until victory".

The men were found guilty of 12 charges, including treason, violence against the state and illegal possession of weapons. The group has seven days to appeal the decision.

The sitting judge rejected requests for leniency from their lawyers.

More than 200 people were killed and hundreds injured when JEM launched the shock attack.

The rebels drove across hundreds of miles of desert and scrubland to reach the capital and were only repelled at a bridge a few kilometres away from the presidential palace.

Some 50 JEM members have previously been sentenced to death for the attacks. None have yet been executed.

The court was specially created to try JEM members involved in the attack.
From AFP Wed Apr 15 2009:
Sudan condemns Darfur rebels to death
KHARTOUM (AFP) — A Sudanese court on Wednesday condemned 10 rebels from the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement to death for an unprecedented attack on Khartoum in 2008 which killed more than 220 people.

"I condemn you to death by hanging," Judge Mutasim Tajisir said in delivering the verdict.

The men were found guilty of terrorist activities, overthrowing the regime, destruction of public property and possession of illegal arms, he said.

"God is Great! JEM is strong! Revolution, revolution until victory!" cried the defendants, dressed in traditional long robes, after hearing the verdict.

Tajisir, who ordered the release of three others accused in the case, gave the defendants one week to appeal the verdict -- which was swiftly branded illegal by JEM.

Fifty members of JEM -- the most active Darfur rebel group -- have already been condemned to hang over the attack on the capital's twin city of Omdurman in May 2008.

More than 222 people were killed when rebels thrust more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) across the sandy expanse from conflict-torn Darfur in western Sudan to Omdurman, just across the Nile from the presidential palace.

"This judgement is illegal, illegitimate and violates international law," JEM spokesman Ahmed Hussein told AFP. "This is yet another evidence that the judicial system of the regime is not independent."

The verdict is "a clear violation of Doha because the regime recognised there that these guys are war prisoners that have to be exchanged," Hussein said.

Last year, the United Nations expressed concern over the trials in the Sudanese courts especially created for the case and urged Khartoum to abolish capital punishment.

Defence lawyers have argued that the special courts are unconstitutional and have not guaranteed their clients' legal rights.

Under Sudanese law, any death sentence must be ratified by an appeal court and the high court. All death warrants must then be signed and approved by President Omar al-Beshir.

The JEM last month said it would no longer hold peace talks with the Sudanese government after Khartoum's expulsion of foreign aid agencies from the war-ravaged region.

It had signed an accord in the Qatari capital of Doha in February with Khartoum on a package of confidence-building measures, paving the way for substantive peace negotiations.

But it said peace talks were no longer possible after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against Beshir on March 4 for war crimes in Darfur.

The world court has accused Beshir of criminal responsibility for "exterminating, raping and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians" from Darfur.

The United Nations says that up to 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels in Darfur rose up against the regime in February 2003. Sudan says 10,000 have been killed.

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