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Sudan to try Janjaweed militia leader for war crimes

Ali Kosheib, a leader of the Janjaweed militia, is to be brought to court in the next week for war crimes in Darfur.

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A Sudanese special prosecutor investigating atrocities in Darfur has decided there are grounds to try a leader of the feared Janjaweed militia, a Sudanese official said on Tuesday.

Idris Suleiman, deputy head of Sudan's mission in Cairo, told AFP that state-backed Sudanese militia leader Ali Kosheib will be brought to court in Darfur at a date set by a judge, "likely in the next week."

Suleiman said Kosheib has been in custody for months, and that the investigation accelerated after the justice ministry appointed a special prosecutor in August and access to witnesses became easier.

Thirteen cases of crimes in Darfur are being investigated, he said, although he declined to say how many suspects were involved.

The International Criminal Court, whose chief prosecutor is asking for a warrant for Sudanese President Omar el-Beshir, issued a warrant for Kosheib in 2007 for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The court said Kosheib enlisted, armed, funded and supplied the Janjaweed militia and "personally participated in some of the attacks against civilians."

He was "perceived as the mediator between the leaders of the Janjaweed and the government of Sudan," the ICC said.

Sudanese Deputy Justice Minister Abdel Daim Zumarwi told AFP Kusheib has been detained for months, and had tried appealing his detention.

"He appealed, but the prosecutor said there were grounds to hold him," he said.

Critics have said the move to bring Kosheib to trial now is aimed at deflecting attention from Beshir's own potential warrant.

The ICC also issued a warrant for Sudanese cabinet minister Ahmed Harun, but Suleiman said there had been no investigation of Harun in Sudan.

"No one in Sudan has complained against him. For us, others' allegations are baseless," he said.

Both Kosheib and Harun have previously been detained by the Sudanese authorities, but no credible trials have taken place that would see the ICC drop its charges. Kosheib's first trial was indefinitely suspended in March 2007 and Harun was briefly detained and released in October 2007 for lack of evidence.

Sudan flatly refuses any recognition or dealings with the ICC. Instead Khartoum has pressed a diplomatic campaign to freeze any proceedings against Beshir and insists on the effectiveness of its own courts.

Both African Union and Arab League officials say Sudan has agreed to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Darfur.

In July, a senior Arab League official said Sudan had agreed to set up special courts to try alleged human rights abuses in Darfur which will be monitored by international bodies including the UN.

The African Union is drawing up a list of top lawyers to probe the situation in Sudan and work with the government after the ICC accusations.

According to the United Nations, up to 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum in February 2003.

Sudan accuses the West of exaggerating the conflict and says 10,000 people have been killed.
  

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