Voice of America (Washington, DC)

South Sudan: Politician Declares Innocence in Alleged Coup Plot

One of four South Sudanese politicians who were detained in December and accused of being part of an alleged plot to oust President Salva Kiir testified that he had nothing to do with the fighting that broke out in Juba and spread to the rest of the country.

Pagan Amum, the former secretary general of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) party, told the panel of judges in a special court in Juba that he did not even know that fighting had broken out on December 15 and was surprised to be picked up from his home two days later by security officials.

During four hours on the witness stand, Amum said he believed the main piece of evidence against him was that he participated in a news conference with former vice president Riek Machar several days before the violence erupted. Machar has been accused of master-minding the alleged coup attempt.

Many speakers at the early December news conference publicly criticized Kiir's handling of the SPLM, but Amum said the only time he opened his mouth at the event was to sing the national anthem.

Defense lawyer Kur Lual Kur said he expects the five judges overseeing the hearings of Amum and three others -- former national security minister Oyai Deng Ajak, former liaison officer for the southern Sudan mission in Washington Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, and former deputy defense minister Majok D'Agot Atem -- will find that the accused had nothing to do with the alleged coup on Dec. 15..

"These charges are not true and any accusations must be in accordance with the law," Kur said.

Ajak testified on Tuesday that he, too, had nothing to do with the violent events that rocked Juba on Dec. 15 before spreading around the country.

The hearings recessed for the weekend and are due to resume on Tuesday, when the prosecution will be able to cross-examine Amum and Ajak.

Lawyers for the prosecution refused to comment on Friday's hearing.

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