March 26, 2014 (JUBA) – The case of the four detained South Sudanese officials continued this week with more prosecution witnesses providing evidence linking them to an alleged coup plot in mid-December, which the government has blamed for triggering violence across the country.
- South Sudan political detainees (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 four politicians, who include the former secretary-general of the country’s ruling party (SPLM), Pagan Amum, as well as former ministers Majak D’Agot and Oyai Deng Ajak and former envoy to the United States Ezekiel Lul Gatkuoth, have been charged with treason. They deny the charges.
The four are allies of the country’s former vice-president turned rebel leader, Riek Machar, who has been charged in absentia.
On Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Mach Paul Kuol, the director of military intelligence, became the fifth witness to testify in court.
In his testimony, Gen. Mach said he became “concerned” when former Unity state governor Taban Deng Gai allegedly called him on 13 December 2013 - two days before fighting erupted in the military barracks in the capital, Juba, to inquire about the arrest of a junior officer.
According to Gen. Mach, the sergeant had attempted to snatch the keys to the military armoury on 12 December, but was subsequently arrested and questioned about his behaviour.
“I told him (Gai) that the soldier was arrested on administrative issues connected with his work,” he said, adding that he had convened a meeting of intelligence chiefs a day later.
“I briefed them that there is something unusual,” he said in reference to the phone call.
The director military intelligence further claimed the press release issued by opposition politicians on 6 December, who included the four now before the court, had “instigated” the army.
“The press statement overstepped what was a political party issue and threat[ened] national security,” he told the court hearing.
However, when questioned by defence lawyers if the four politicians being tried played any role in organising the mid-December violence, he replied “no.”
James Mayen, the lead prosecutor in the case, said that four state witnesses had testified on Wednesday, with more expected to appear.
“There are a dozen prosecution witnesses,” he told reporters outside the court.
Meanwhile, lead defence lawyer Monyluak Alor insisted that the testimonies given made the prosecution’s case “weaker and weaker”.
The case was adjourned on Tuesday after the prosecution team failed to produce witnesses. The defence is expected to call witnesses when the prosecution complete its submissions.
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