[QODLink]
Africa

Minister says S Sudan rebellion was treason

The justice minister says the former vice president Riek Machar launched a coup and should face charges.

Last updated: 29 Jan 2014 13:29
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
South Sudanese government and rebel delegations signed a ceasefire truce, but since then both sides accuse the other of fighting [EPA]

South Sudan's minister of justice says former vice president Riek Machar should be tried for treason along with six of the 11 detainees, a move that could make already troubled peace talks even more difficult.

Paulino Wanawilla Unago, minister of justice, said on Tuesday he believed there was enough of a case to take Machar and his six associates, who include Pagan Amum, the former Secretary General of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), to court for treason.

We believe they are going to be answerable for the coup
before the court

Minister Paulino Wanawilla Unago,

"Anybody who intends to change a constitutional government or to suspend the constitution or abrogate the constitution by force commits treason," Unago told reporters on Tuesday. "We believe they are going to be answerable for the coup before the court."

Machar, who is now in hiding, dismissed the allegation, saying Kiir had taken advantage of an outbreak of fighting to round up political rivals.

President Salva Kiir accused Machar, the vice president he sacked in July, of launching a coup in the world's newest country.

But first he said the president needed to sanction the treason charge, which carries the death penalty in South Sudan if a pardon is not first granted by the president.

Unago cushioned the blow by saying seven other political figures, arrested after the violence erupted, would be released due to lack of evidence. Six of the seven would be released on condition of bail, he said, and would be transferred to a neighbouring state like Kenya because of concerns for their safety. 

Trade of blame

His concession for their release partly meets one of the rebels' demands at the negotiations. However, they could still face trial in South Sudan if further investigations linked them to the alleged coup, the justice minister said.

Follow our in-depth coverage of South Sudan

But both sides have accused the other of continuing the violence and the discussions have been suspended until Feb. 7.

"If the political detainees are not released by Feb. 7 then I don't see the political talks going anywhere," said a South Sudanese diplomat in Addis Ababa.

"But at the same time you cannot release the suspects without the legal process taking its course."

Diplomats say the deep ethnic, political and personal grievances will be hard to overcome when talks restart.

Fighting broke out between rival groups in the presidential guard in the capital Juba in mid December and quickly spread to oil-producing areas, largely along ethnic lines.

The violence has killed thousands of civilians and driven more than half a million from their homes.

Under heavy pressure from regional powers, the United States, the United Nations and other key donors, both sides agreed to meet in neighbouring Ethiopia, then on Thursday signed a ceasefire. But both sides have accused the other of continuing the violence and the discussions have been suspended until Feb. 7.

508

Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Craft breweries see rising sales, challenging large corporations for a bigger taste of Mexico's $20bn beer market.
Students kept from using screen-based technology for five days showed improvement in recognizing emotion, US study says.
Frustration grows in Kiev as pledges to end corruption and abuse of power stagnate after Maidan Square protest.
Thousands of Houthi supporters have called for the fall of Yemen's government. But what do the Houthis really want?
New ration reductions and movement restrictions have refugees from Myanmar anxious about their future in Thailand.
join our mailing list