Darfur rebels sentenced to death over Khartoum attack

A court in Sudan has sentenced ten members of the Darfur Justice and Equality Movement to death by hanging after the men were found guilty of an attack on the Khartoum suburb of Omdurman in May 2008.


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.


Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning