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JUBA - 7 Apr 2014

Treason court hears final prosecution witness in secret

The special court in Juba set up to try four treason suspects heard the final prosecution witness today in a secret meeting of the court, closed to the public, before the prosecution rested its case. 

Prominent government officials summoned by the prosecution last week declined to appear in court to testify against the four accused, who are all senior members of the ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

After witnesses repeatedly failed to show up in court, last week the court set a deadline of 7 April for the prosecution to bring its witnesses, or else the case would be closed.

The four defendants were jailed in mid-December and now face charges of treason. They include SPLM secretary-general Pagan Amum, ex-deputy defense minister Majak d’Agoot, ex-national security minister Oyai Deng, and former envoy to the US Ezekiel Gatkuoth.

Speaking to the journalists after the morning hearing today, the prosecution lawyer said that one witness testified before the judges secretly, and several audio recordings were played to the court as evidence.

“Our last witness was heard in camera,” said the prosecutor, using a Latin legal phrase meaning 'in a chamber,' in other words out of the public view.

“We have produced more than six audios today that are related to the accused audios from the very day on the 15th and the 16th,” he said.

The witness was said to be a government employee in the security service who recorded the audio of phone calls which the prosecution says implicate the accused in an ‘attempted coup attempt’ last December.

His appearance comes at the demand of the court, which asked the prosecution last week to bring someone responsible to be cross-examined by the defense, or else they would not consider the audio recordings admissible as evidence.  

The prosecutor says that this witness presented their final evidence: “And by that we have closed the case of the prosecution and now we have turned to hear the accused and tomorrow we will be continuing.”

“We are going well with our case,” he claimed.

The defense downplayed the significance of the final prosecution testimony. “For us in the defense, we don’t think that his testimony will affect our case so much, but then by hearing this witness – this was the last witness – the case of the prosecution has been closed,” said defense lawyer.

Following the presentation of this last prosecution evidence, the court proceeded to other stages of the trial.

Oyai Deng Ajak, one of the accused, today testified in his own defense. He dismissed all the accusations made against him, saying they were fabrications.

Pointing out that he himself served as director of intelligence for many years, he said he knows very well whether an audio recording is real or fabricated.

He stressed that what happened on the night of 15 December was a dispute within the Republican Guards, not a coup d’etat as claimed by the government.

Kur Alor Kur, one of the defense lawyers, said that the audio recordings introduced as evidence were breaches of privacy. He considered the evidence weak and inadmissible.

Related coverage:

Prosecution in Amum case ask for secret trial (11 March)