JUBA — The treason trial of four officials from South Sudan's ruling SPLM party continued in Juba Friday with a third prosecution witness testifying that the accused were part of a plot in December to overthrow the government.
Thomas Duoth, director general of external security, told the special court that he has solid evidence that the four men on trial were part of a plan to seize power in a coup on December 15.
Duoth said that two of the accused -- former deputy defense minister Majok D'Agot Atem and former security minister Oyay Deng Ajak -- told him they wanted to force President Salva Kiir out of the SPLM chairmanship.
Kiir has said that clashes that erupted in Juba in mid-December were an attempted coup led by his former deputy, Riek Machar. The violence quickly spread around South Sudan, claiming thousands of lives and displacing close to one million people.
Machar and two others accused of leading the alleged coup bid -- Alfred Lado Gore and Taban Deng Gai -- either fled the country or went into hiding when the troubles erupted in Juba.
Eleven other members of the SPLM, including the four on trial, were arrested in December. Under pressure from the international community, seven of the detainees were released in January to the custody of the authorities in Kenya. On Friday, they were in the Ethiopian capital, taking part in slow-moving peace talks for South Sudan.
Two more prosecution witnesses were due to testify at the four detainees' trial before the defense takes the stand.
Lead defense attorney Monyluak Alor said his team will also present witnesses to testify on behalf of the four men in court.
Prosecution lawyers declined to speak to reporters Friday.