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South Sudan Releases 7 Key Political Detainees to Kenya

The government of South Sudan has released seven of the 11 political detainees whose arrest became a sticking point at peace talks with rebels.

The seven men were released Wednesday and taken to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, under an agreement between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Four other detainees, including the former secretary-general of South Sudan's ruling party, Pagan Amum, remain in custody in Juba and are due to face trial on treason charges.

South Sudanese authorities arrested the 11 soon after President Kiir accused his rival Riek Machar of launching a coup attempt on December 15 -- a charge Machar has denied.

Fighting in Juba that night set off several weeks of clashes that have displaced more than a half-million South Sudanese.

South Sudan's justice minister Paulino Wanawila said Tuesday that Machar will be brought to court as well if he is apprehended.

Speaking on behalf of the detainees sent to Kenya, former Justice Minister John Luk Jok said Wednesday that he and his colleagues are sad about the "tragic situation" in South Sudan and feel a duty to see their country restored to normalcy.

The government and rebel forces signed a cease-fire agreement last week in Ethiopia, but both sides have accused the other of violations.

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