Rebels sentenced to death

2009-06-09 14:20

Khartoum - A Sudanese court sentenced another 12 Darfur rebels to death on Tuesday for a 2008 attack on Khartoum, raising to 103 the number of Justice and Equality Movement fighters ordered hanged for the raid.

Judge Mudathir al-Rashid found the JEM fighters guilty of terrorism, murder and destroying public property during the unprecedented attack on the capital's twin city of Omdurman in May 2008.

Some of the defendants responded to the verdict by chanting: "God is great! Revolution until victory."

Special tribunals set up in the wake of the attack have been judging the alleged rebels in batches over the last few weeks, usually sentencing around 10 to death at a time.

Peace deal

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.

Last year, the United Nations expressed concern over the trials in 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-Bashir.

JEM, Darfur's most active rebel group, resumed last month Qatari-brokered talks with Khartoum aimed at reaching a peace deal in the restive region.

Broken off the talks

The movement had broken off the talks in April, saying Khartoum failed to honour a confidence-building deal brokered by Qatar aimed at paving the way for peace negotiations.

The group had also conditioned talks with Khartoum on the return of 13 foreign aid groups that were expelled from Darfur after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant in March for Bashir.

The international court indicted Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

It accused him of criminal responsibility for "exterminating, raping and forcibly transferring large numbers of civilians."

The United Nations says up to 300 000 people have died and 2.7 million have fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels in Darfur rose up against the Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum in February 2003.

Sudan says 10 000 have been killed.