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Amnesty International Calls Trials of Alleged Sudanese Rebels a Sham

The human rights group Amnesty International is accusing the Sudanese government of holding hundreds of people without charges or access to lawyers. It says Sudan is preparing to hold more trials related to the May 10th attacks near Khartoum by the Rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Amnesty calls the trials a "sham."

Sunday, eight alleged members of JEM were sentenced to death in connection with the May attacks. In all, 38 have received the death sentence in the incident.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al Bashir has granted amnesty to nearly 90 juveniles arrested in the attacks. The government describes allegations of torture and mass arrests as "absolutely not true" and "rubbish."

Tawanda Hondora is Amnesty's deputy director for Africa. From London, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the trials.

"The concerns that Amnesty International has…mainly drawn from the fact that most of those that have been taken before the courts have alleged that they've been tortured and that they've been forced to confess. And in certain of the instances, a part of evidence that has been obtained through torture has actually been used in court. And some of the individuals have also not been allowed to see their lawyers; and in most cases they've actually (first) seen their lawyers on the day of the hearing," he says.

Amnesty contends the trials do not meet international standards of justice. It also wants to courts to investigate allegations of torture made by the defendants and their lawyers. Amnesty also alleges that the whereabouts of many of those charged in the case, possibly hundreds, are unknown.

"We're not saying they ought not try individuals against whom there is sufficient information that they may have committed offenses. That's not what we're saying. But what we're saying is if they are to proceed…they must have information that is credible, which must not have been obtained through torture. And more importantly, the court must have a basis in law…and they must not under any circumstances pass the death penalty," Hondora says.

He says that allegations of torture are based on evidence collected from lawyers, who did raise the issue in court. He says while there are automatic appeals in death penalty cases, Amnesty questions whether the appeals will receive a fair hearing. Hondora says there's been no response yet from the Sudanese government to its concerns.