News / Africa

No Evidence to Tie Four South Sudan Politicians to 'Coup' Bid, Court Told

The courtroom in Juba where the treason trial of four South Sudan political detainees began on March 11, 2014.
The courtroom in Juba where the treason trial of four South Sudan political detainees began on March 11, 2014.
Philip Aleu
Prosecution witnesses surprised the court when on Wednesday they tettified in favor of four South Sudanese political detainees accused of treason for their alleged role in the December uprising.

Under cross-examination, Army Brigadier General Atem Benjamin said he did not have any evidence to implicate the four men who are on trial in the attempt to topple the government of President Salva Kiir.

Benjamin had told the court, however, that he has evidence that former vice president Riek Machar led the uprising that started December 15 in a Juba military barracks. Machar, who has denied the accusation, went into hiding when the violence erupted.


The other witness, Major General Mach Paul Kuol, who is the director of military intelligence, accused former Unity state governor Taban Deng Gai of being involved in the plot.
Head of the rebel delegation Taban Deng Gai, addresses journalists during South Sudan's negotiations in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 8, 2014.Head of the rebel delegation Taban Deng Gai, addresses journalists during South Sudan's negotiations in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 8, 2014.
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Head of the rebel delegation Taban Deng Gai, addresses journalists during South Sudan's negotiations in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 8, 2014.
Head of the rebel delegation Taban Deng Gai, addresses journalists during South Sudan's negotiations in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 8, 2014.


Kuol said his accusation was based on the fact that Gai called him to ask why he had arrested a soldier who was caught in mid-December, trying to make copies of keys to an armory inside the Giada military barracks in Juba, where the fighting began.

Kuol said he found the phone call suspicious and informed his superiors.

But he also said he has no evidence that the four men on trial were involved in the alleged coup on Dec. 15.

Gai fled South Sudan when the fighting broke out and is the lead negotiator for the anti-government side at peace talks for South Sudan, being held in Addis Ababa. The government has said it has enough evidence to charge him and Machar with treason
South Sudan's former vice president turned opposition leader Riek Machar has been in hiding since violence broke out in Juba in December.South Sudan's former vice president turned opposition leader Riek Machar has been in hiding since violence broke out in Juba in December.
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South Sudan's former vice president turned opposition leader Riek Machar has been in hiding since violence broke out in Juba in December.
South Sudan's former vice president turned opposition leader Riek Machar has been in hiding since violence broke out in Juba in December.


The two officers' testimonies contrasted with statements made to the court last week by Thomas Duoth, director general of external security, who said he had solid evidence that the four men on trial were part of a plan to seize power in a coup.

ead prosecution attorney James Mayen said his team is trying to present a complete picture of what happened when the fighting erupted in Juba in December. Not every prosecution witness will present evidence against the accused, he said.

Mayen said he was satisfied with the way the prosecution's case was proceeding. The prosecution has called six witnesses so far and will call another six before the defense presents its case, he said.

Defense lawyer Monyluak Alor called Benjamin's and Kuol's testimonies a victory for his side, and a blow to the prosecution case, which he said "is getting weaker and weaker.”

The special court in Juba began hearing the case against earlier this month.

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by: martin from: south Dakota USA
March 29, 2014 7:01 AM
Well it looks to me like little propoganda in this case,any way if there was enough evidence against these four top Spla officers why not let them go?and why Riack demand their release?if there is no conection,is the law fear of release the dud?why the other seven was free?


by: David from: U.S.A.
March 28, 2014 3:12 PM
It might be too early but fact will speak itself. I might not be sure about how the court system work in almost dictatorship ruling but it is mostly common sense when some one took a step to attack then say relate words of attack. If these four men are part of the "coup" why would they be in their houses while the action coup was in process? In my argument, some is not right about the whole situation. As a southern I believe that some of us always make tribal support. This I believe with out one tribe another one would not function. By knowing this slightest we should be successful not only on south Sudan also round the world. It's always struck me when our show indulging hopefully fair trial will be given to these innocent people. Mostly creator of the land provide righteousness. We can go on and on but these are just opinions. But I give great thanks VOA. Lets the freedom ring in south Sudan not dictatorship.


by: Bior Aguek from: Kenya
March 28, 2014 10:42 AM
I think it is still too earlier for either side to celebrate or complain since the case has just began with the first batch of six prosecution witnesses which is to be followed by another second batch of six witnesses before the defense team take their turn on the stage. So for the defense attorney to consider the two witness accounts as a "victory" to their side and a blow to the prosecution's side is clearly a premature claim. The entire process should be conducted first by giving both the prosecution and the defense teams to argue their cases out. The outcome of the process will therefore, depends largely on the presentation of substantially concrete evidences by the prosecutor or failure to present enough evidences that will meet the required threshold upon which the case can be fully determined.

We should therefore wait for the whole process to resume after the adjournment and proceeds to its logical conclusion. The defense team on the other hand will have to counter the prosecution team's claim by convincing the court that, the accused had nothing to do with the attempted coup of which they are alleged to have taken part in. The people of South Sudan are patiently waiting for the outcome of that case with their ears widely opened. There seems to be a little confusion in the manner in which the treason trial is being interpreted, if the four detainees are found innocent of the treason charges, does it mean there was no coup? of course not, if the four are found innocent, it means that they were not part of the coup plotters team. This is different from whether there was a coup or not because the case before court is whether they had anything to do with the alleged coup or not.


by: David from: U.S.A
March 27, 2014 8:55 PM
I am also satisfy with the two testimony those two men. Lets face this only two years a go when all south Sudanese receive independent. There was no interest in any one mind to topple the president. But president himself feel threaten when people decide to run for election in 2015. Now he then decide eliminate those who are interested in his position. He truly knows that other candidate like Dr. Machar would win over him knowing he decide to send his body guards to harm those whom they know are loyal to machar. This is how the problem started in Juba. No one in south Sudan try or thought about overthrowing president but president made a technical fight and try to shift the responsibility on other. We die for this country any create this mess he/she will be judge by the father God who put us in this land. So many life has been lost for illusional fight while the country should be focusing on build and educate its citizens who are in desperate need. I confident that those four has nothing to do with made up excuse call coup. Free them and let Pursue their future. This just my opinion is any one to discuss any of this message with, feel free to email i will be happy to present to you all the facts i have.
Thank you for excepting my opinion.

In Response

by: Nyagai from: Washington DC
March 28, 2014 2:35 PM
Well said Mr. David!

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