Khartoum — One of 15 members of the Popular Defence Forces (PDF*) accused of attacking El Sanadra and El Shawaya villages in South Kordofan in September 2016 and killing eight civilians has escaped from military custody, it was discovered on Monday.
The Khartoum Criminal Court North postponed the hearing scheduled for Monday to October 18 after a soldier assigned to guard the accused discovered that defendant Abdelrahman Abdelgader Salah was not present.
The accused had been held in El Markhiyat military camp pending trial, Lawyer Kamal Abdallah, the representative of the families of the victims, told Radio Dabanga.
He explained that Judge Abdeen Dahi issued a decision to transfer the 14 remaining defendants from the courtroom directly to Kober Prison to avoid the escape of any more of them. This in spite of the objections of thee representatives of the military judiciary and the defence counsel.
The trial was previously postponed on 14 September when the court refused to proceed with the trial because the defendants appeared in military uniform, contrary to the decision of the court in its previous session, when the judge had ordered them not to appear in military uniform again.
Abdallah expressed his satisfaction at the transfer of the accused to Kober Prison, saying that confirmed that the accused were kept outside camp El Markhiyat during the last period. "According to the military judge, the custodial facility there does not exceed 12 square metres and that cannot accommodate all the defendants", he explained.
He explained that during the two previous sessions Judge Abdeen Dahi ordered the military judiciary to transfer the accused to the military prison, but the military judiciary did not carry out the order and kept the defendants at camp El Markhiyat on the pretext of non-completion of the proceedings.
In September last year 15 Popular Defence Force (PDF) personnel attacked El Sanadra and El Shawaya villages in South Kordofan. Eight civilians died and large parts of the villages burned.
The attach prompted a sit-in demonstration by thousands of residents in El Abbasiya the next day.
The paramilitary PDF was established as a legal entity by decree in November 1989, a few months after Omar Al Bashir came to power by a military coup. After the consolidation of the regime in 1992, the PDF became one of the primary instruments of Islamist political and popular mobilisation.
Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005, the future of the PDF, and its relationship with the regular armed forces, has been contested. Still described as a force of mujahideen (fighters of the holy war), the PDF has continued to exist as a military and civilian network to mobilise militia auxiliaries throughout Sudan. In 2007, the PDF had active units in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the Small Arms Survey reported in its Working Paper on the PDF that year.