Sudan court spares American’s killers
KHARTOUM, Sudan - An appeals court commuted the death sentences for four men convicted of killing an American diplomat and his Sudanese driver after the driver’s family decided to pardon the murderers, a news agency reported yesterday.
Sudanese law stipulates that if a victim’s family chooses to pardon the murderer, the person cannot be sentenced to death and the prison term cannot exceed 10 years.
The case will be referred back to the initial court for a new sentence, said the Sudan Media Center.
The three appellate judges delivered their verdict without considering the wishes of the family of the slain diplomat, John Granville, who was killed by gunmen along with his driver as he was returning from a New Year’s party in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, said the news agency, which has close links to the Sudanese government.
The 33-year-old from Buffalo worked for the US Agency for International Development and was the first American to be killed in Sudan since 1973, when two diplomats were slain by Palestinian militants.
He was working to implement a 2005 peace agreement between Sudan’s north and south that ended more than two decades of civil war.
The four Sudanese men were convicted in June of murder, possession of firearms, and other charges and were sentenced to be hanged.
One of them is a former Sudanese Army officer who was in active service at the time of Granville’s death. He was dismissed after he was implicated in the case.
A fifth defendant was convicted of selling the weapons used in the attack and sentenced to two years in prison.
The prosecutor in the case said during the trial that the assailants acted out of “religious zeal’’ and that the group was looking for a Western target during New Year’s Eve celebrations. The five men said they were coerced to confess to the American’s killing.
In the attack, a vehicle cut off Granville’s car, and its occupants opened fire before fleeing. His driver, Abdel-Rahman Abbas, was immediately killed.
Granville, who was hit by five bullets, died of his wounds after surgery.