News / Africa

South Sudan Politicians Freed After Four Months in Detention

Former SPLM secretary general Pagan Amum speaks to reporters after a South Sudanese judge released him and three others who were detained more than four months ago for allegedly attempting a coup.
Former SPLM secretary general Pagan Amum speaks to reporters after a South Sudanese judge released him and three others who were detained more than four months ago for allegedly attempting a coup.
Charlton Doki
Four South Sudanese politicians walked free on Friday after spending more than four months in detention for allegedly taking part in what the government has said was a failed December coup that tipped the country into months of bloodletting.

Women ululated and men sang revolutionary songs after Justice James Alala Deng announced that former SPLM secretary general Pagan Amum, former security minister Oyay Deng Ajak, former deputy defense minister Majok D'Agot Atem, and former envoy for southern Sudan to the United States, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, were free men.

As they left  the courtroom, the four men were hoisted onto the shoulders of supporters and relatives of the former political figures shed tears of joy.

Amum expressed his gratitude to "our friends who stood behind us during the long period of our unjustified incarceration; to all our friends who stood by us... and demanded that we be released."

President Salva Kiir said in a news conference that he ordered the release of the four to help speed up the peace process in South Sudan. Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth said Kiir had come under pressure from regional leaders to set the four men free.

But Amum said he and his colleagues were released because the government's case against them had fallen apart -- because it was fabricated to begin with.

"The truth is, the government of South Sudan had arrested us and put us in prison without any reason," Amum said.

"They presented our case in court and when we went to court, it became clear that the government had no case against us -- they didn't have evidence against us and the whole thing was just fabricated," he said.

"That’s why they took this preemptive step of withdrawing the case," Amum said.

Several key prosecution witnesses failed to show up in court, and some of the witnesses who did testify for the prosecution said they had no evidence to indicate that the four men had anything to do with the violence that broke out in Juba on Dec. 15 and spread around the country, including to Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states, where fighting is still continuing.

The four intend now to help to restore peace in South Sudan, Amum said.

"We will be engaging both the government and SPLM/SPLA-in-Opposition to end this senseless war that is killing our people," Amum said.

Thousands of people are thought to have died in the fighting in South Sudan and international humanitarian organizations have warned that many thousands more will die of hunger and disease if the clashes continue.

Defense lawyer Monyluak Alor expressed his delight at the four being freed, and said justice has been served with their release.

“We have consistently been saying these are innocent people," he said.

"With the government at least withdrawing the case, we have seen that, at last... the government has seen reason and sense and the value of these individuals contributing to peace in the country,” Alor said, adding that he hopes the release of the four men will help the reconciliation process in South Sudan.

Andrew Green contributed to this report.

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Comment Sorting
by: wenyin from: canada
April 25, 2014 7:06 PM
They were not under detention but HOUSE ARREST. Hope this little correction will help flatttened the plain. The four released politicians were the most rich and corrupt persons in the whole East Africa. Salva Kiir's anti - corruption agent did a good job informing the president Kiir, which lead to the their dismissal from their posts. If you wonder where do they get a supplies of weapons to fight the government for over 4 months, the answer is simple: The money they obtained while Kiir was in Khartoum leaving Riek Machar as his vice president ( A president technically) in South Sudan. It is estimated that Machar has more than 3 billions USA dollars when he was replaced by Wani Igga. Now you do the math, add to this evil person [ Riek Machar] the eminent support by the government of Bashir in North Sudan; wh supplied Riek with a lots lots lots of arms made in Iran and Russia.
In Response

by: Ken from: South Sudan
April 26, 2014 3:55 AM
Wenyin, it seems you are out of touch with South Sudan. people are talking about reconciliation here. When you talk about corruption almost the entire Government is Corrupt and it is synonymous with most Africa Countries. it just the degree of corruption. we also know what happen on 15th Dec. 2013. If you have a problem with someone you don't need to go kill his entire clan. Some of the people killed in Juba on 15th that led to sporadic killing never knew the difference between Kiir and Machar. Thanks
In Response

by: Bol from: Bor
April 26, 2014 12:59 AM
Salva Kiir Mayar did of all president. Yes, these guys were not directly involved in the attempted coup, but to say Riek Machar and his Nath community didn't plan a coup would be a tall order.

Why Salva Kiir just wants to be a leader of the South Sudanese people when he is the most cowardest of all people in South Sudan is to anyone guess?

Why did he put his military uniform on the 16/12/2013, when he couldnot fight one unruly tribe in South Sudan? Everybody knows during liberation war that Salva Kiir was never a strategist, never a war planer, but a coward.

The Town to be attributed to him to have captured was Al kurmuk one, but the planning of its capture was devised by others. The guy keeps humiliating South Sudanese at every turn. South Sudanese are brave people and a coward is sitting on top of them.

During Panthou/Heglig war with the North Sudan, he first talked tough like a South Sudanese leader, but when he was threatened by Ban Ki Moon, the US and Europeans; he cowered.

Now he has done it again and he is making excuses that he was pressured by the regional governments and that he wants to speed up peace process, does he even know that Riek Machar fighters three different disparate group!

No wonder why the Nuers keep calling him name! He wants to be a leader of South Sudanese people and he is the greatest South Sudanese coward. Does South Sudanese sovereignty lies in the region?

Another war is coming though, there are some people who would want not any Americans, the British, ethiopians prostitutes in their states or those who helped in sponsoring this war against our people. The US, the UK and ethiopians prostitutes will not be in wanted our state of Jonglei as we know it.

These guys will target very thoroughly, we find an evil white white men from American or British or ethiopian highlanders passports and they will first of all go hell to reconcile with our innocent people they have killed.

America and British are now new enemies after arabs.

And we will see what

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