November 28, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — Two Sudanese men sentenced to die for raping and murdering a four-year-old girl escaped the hangman’s noose by just three minutes after winning an appeal, local media reported on Wednesday.
Everything was on track for the prison execution in Khartoum and the convicts had been weighed to calculate the traction on the rope when Sudan’s highest legal authority ordered a delay, Al-Rai Al-Am newspaper said.
"It happened three minutes before the scheduled hanging," wrote the newspaper quoting a judge who was due to observe the execution.
Lawyers for the defence managed to win the last-minute reprieve by saying the rights of their clients were not respected during a trial that saw massive media coverage and incited huge public interest.
They won the right to appeal at the last minute and a civil servant from the constitutional court telephoned to stop the execution.
Sudan’s highest legal authority must now decide whether to authorise another trial or reject the appeal and send the convicts back to the gallows.
Mutassim Khairallah, 35, and Imad Tabben, 18, were found guilty of raping and then suffocating Muram Awad Sadiq during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr last October at the end of the Ramadan fast, before dumping her body in a well.
They were sentenced to death in January by the central Khartoum criminal court, then immediately dragged out to be publicly lashed 100 times in front of hundreds of cheering onlookers, as drivers stopped their cars to watch.
There is no official record of the number of people executed each year in Sudan, but international human rights organisations frequently report cases in which the death penalty is handed down.