An appeals court in Sudan has commuted the death sentences of four men convicted of killing a U.S. diplomat and his Sudanese driver.

John Granville, an official of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and his driver Abdel Rahman Abbas were gunned down in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on New Year's Day 2008. 

The Court of Appeals Wednesday overruled the death sentences handed down by a lower court after the victims' families asked for a pardon.  In Sudan, a court must take into account the wishes of the victim's family.

In June, four Sudanese men, Mohamed Makawi, Abdelbasit Hajj al-Hassan, Mohamed Osman Yussif and Abdel Raouf Abu Hamza, were convicted of the murders and sentenced to death by hanging.

A fifth defendant was convicted of providing the weapons used in the attack and sentenced to two years in prison.

The Associated Press quoted local reports Thursday saying the guilty verdict remains and that the case will be referred to the initial court for a new sentence.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.