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Political detainees linked to S. Sudan coup plot face court in Juba

March 11, 2014 (JUBA) - A court hearing for four political detainees accused of treason by the South Sudan government in connection to an alleged coup plot to depose president Salva Kiir got under way in the capital, Juba, on Tuesday.

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South Sudanese leaders (left to right) Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, Majak d’Agoot, Pagan Amum and Oyai Deng Ajak at a trial hearing in Juba on 11 March 2014 (Photo: AFP/Andrei Pungovschi)

The hearing started at 10:00am (local time) following repeated adjournments and delays, allegedly to allow investigators assemble more evidence.

Pagan Amum, former secretary-general of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), Majak D’ Agoot, former deputy defence minister, Oyai Deng Ajak, former national security minister in the office of the president and Ambassador Ezekiel Gatkuoth Lol, appeared before a panel of judges.

Charges read out related to evidence of their role in the alleged failed coup attempt in mid-December, which sparked violence across the country, and their participation in a 6 December press conference, in which they criticised Kiir’s leadership as being marked by corruption and tribal divisions.

Telephone records were also presented allegedly showing individual discussions on strategies to depose president Kiir from power.

Other evidence tendered to the court includes documents seized after the arrest of some of the officials.

Government witnesses brought to testify include interior minister Aleu Ayieny Aleu, as well as the director generals for internal and external security, Akol Koor Kuc and Thomas Duoth respectively. Major General Mac Paul from military intelligence was one of the witnesses testifying on behalf of the government.

Seven other political detainees were released in January and immediately left South Sudan for Kenya. The remaining four detainees have since remained in custody despite mounting international pressure for their release.

An estimated 10,000 people have been killed and almost one million displaced since violence erupted between forces loyal to the Kiir-led government and rebels aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar.