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Sudan sentences 22 more rebels to death

world Updated: Jul 31, 2008 19:52 IST
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Two Sudanese courts on Thursday sentenced another 22 alleged Darfur rebels to death over an attack on the capital last May in which more than 222 people were killed.

The sentences from two special courts, set up to try those rounded up in a security crackdown following the May 10 assault, bring to 30 the number of alleged members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) condemned to death.

"The court sentenced all the 12 accused to death," said Adam Bakr Hassab, one of the defence lawyers at the special court in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum that was attacked by JEM rebels over two months ago.

Hassab told AFP that one of those sentenced to death is aged 16.

"The judge found them guilty of the charges against them and gave them one week to appeal the decision," he said.

"This is not fair because we are already at the end of the (working) week. Then we have two days' weekend. So we have just have five days to appeal against the verdict," he added.

In the other court, in Khartoum North, Judge Osama Osman referred the cases of three suspected rebels to juvenille courts and found 10 men guilty under Sudanese criminal law and counter-terrorism legislation.

"I sentence you to death by hanging and you have the right to appeal this decision within 15 days," he addressed those standing in the dock.

The condemned, aged around 18 to 25 years old, broke out into loud cries of "God is great" and "thanks be to God", waving their arms in the air after hearing the sentence.

Saleh Balila, one of the defence lawyers, vowed to appeal against the sentences as quickly as possible, but provided no further comment.

Sudan has put on trial dozens of suspects under counter-terrorism and criminal law over the May attack, the first time that decades of regional conflict had reached the capital.

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

On Tuesday, eight men, all accused of belonging to JEM, were also sentenced to death in the first such verdicts over the May attack.

Those hauled before the courts have included Abdul Aziz Ashur, senior JEM commander and brother-in-law of overall leader Khalil Ibrahim. Ashur was not among the eight sentenced on Thursday.

Under Sudanese law, any death sentence must be ratified by both an appeals' court and the high court. Then all death warrants must be signed and approved by President Omar al-Beshir.

More than 222 people were killed when rebels thrust more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) across the sandy expanse from western Sudan's region of Darfur to Omdurman, just across the River Nile from the presidential palace.

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

The war began when African ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime and state-backed Arab militias, fighting for resources and power in one of the most remote and deprived places on earth.