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South Sudan Judges Again Adjourn Treason Hearing

  • Philip Aleu

Hearings for the four South Sudan political detainees accused of treason began on March 11, 2014.

Hearings for the four South Sudan political detainees accused of treason began on March 11, 2014.

The trial of four South Sudanese politicians accused of treason in what the government says was an attempted coup hit another snag Tuesday as prosecution witnesses failed to show up to testify.

Prosecution lawyers said the two witnesses were due to appear before the panel of five judges but were kept away from the court by official duties.

They were to testify in the case of former SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum Okiech, former Security Minister Oyay Deng Ajak, former Deputy Defense Minister Majok D'Agot Atem, and the former envoy of the semi-autonomous South Sudan government to the U.S., Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth.

The prosecution did not provide more details.

Over objections from the defense, lead prosecuting attorney James Mayen asked for the hearing to be postponed. The judges granted the prosecution's request and adjourned the hearing until Wednesday.

Prosecution lawyers left the court immediately after the adjournment was announced, without speaking to reporters.

Lead defense attorney Monyluak Alor expressed his unhappiness with the judges' decision to delay the hearings.

"That was very disappointing and we insisted that they should be made to bring other witnesses today," Alor told reporters.

"For us, this is an intended delay because the witnesses - most of them - are in town. So they could have just replaced them if they were serious about the process to be speedy,” he said, adding that the second adjournment in the two-week-old legal proceeding deprives his clients of the right to expeditious justice.

The special court began hearing the case of the four politicians two weeks ago. Within one day of the start of the hearings, the judges adjourned the court for a week when the prosecutors demanded that seven other politicians return to Juba from Kenya to stand trial.

The seven were detained in December along with the four on trial, but were released six weeks later to the custody of Kenyan authorities. They were not in court when the hearing resumed last week.

The government has accused the 11 politicians of being part of a failed plot led by former vice president, Riek Machar, to topple the government. All of the accused deny having anything to do with an alleged coup plot.

The defense plans to call its own witnesses once the prosecution has finished presenting its case.

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