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Human Rights Group Protests Darfur Death Sentences

Amnesty International is protesting the death sentences handed down to 82 Darfuri men by a Sudanese special court. The men were allegedly involved in a May 2008 attack on the capital, Khartoum, by an armed opposition group based in Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement.

Amnesty says the trial and sentencing of the accused men is a breach of international law. It's asking the government to overturn the death sentences. Erwin Zanderborght is director of Africa Programs at Amnesty International. VOA's Chinedu Offor asked him how the organization hopes to pressure the Sudanese government to change its mind.

"We are mobilizing our membership to campaign on a number of things. One is that the death penalty should not be applied in principle, as it is cruel and inhumane punishment, but also to investigate the allegation of torture, which the accused have voiced against the Sudanese authorities, and also to make sure that standards of fair trial are upheld. On all those three aspects, it is clear that the Sudanese government has a responsibility so that is why we are pushing to see that rectified."

Zanderborght discussed the influence of outside pressure: "By putting it out in the public, we hope that there will be enough momentum to stop this, and it will obviously require pressure from other sides as well. We know that the Sudanese government recently executed nine other people, also after unfair trials and also after accusations of torture. So, yeah, we are very worried about the situation of the 82 people from Darfur. They are still in a position to appeal the death sentence so we hope that judicial process will rectify the current sentencing, but at the same time, obviously, the allegations of torture has to be investigated because a number of people confessed after having been subjected to torture."