The United States embassy in South Sudan has voiced concerns over the verdict of the high court which sentenced Peter Biar, Kerbino Wol and four others to prison two weeks ago.
The sentenced activist Biar to 2 years in prison, while businessman Kerbino Wol was sentenced to 13 years.
The two were found guilty for violating some sections of the penal court and the national security act.
Kerbino and 4 others were charged with possession of firearms and sabotage among others.
The other co-accused were given 5 years each.
Human Rights Watch on Thursday said the high court “did not charge Biar and others for the reasons they were first arrested but over an incident at the national security prison” last year when detainees allegedly took weapons and demobilized prison guards.
The court dropped the treason charges against Peter Biar, but convicted him for “breach of the peace” citing his previous comments on foreign media over the peace agreement.
Biar once called on the government and the opposition to hand over leadership to young South Sudanese. This was at a time when parties were negotiating a new agreement in Khartoum, and shortly after President Salva Kiir publicly warned people against “talking negatively” about the peace process.
However, the defense lawyers criticized the high court verdict saying it contradicts the provisions of the constitution.
The U.S. Embassy in Juba on Thursday echoed the same observation.
“We were deeply concerned by the verdict in the case of Peter Biar Ajak and five other men, just days after the Government of South Sudan took an important step by ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said Jonathan Cebra, Spokesperson of the United States embassy in South Sudan.
Others who have been charged are; Dau Guer, Benjamin Gany, James Bol Akech, Simon Dau Makoi and Peter Albino who refused to be represented by a lawyer.
All the sentences have been backdated to the day each person was detained.
The lawyers filed an appeal at the court of appeal this week to challenge the sentencing of their clients.
The constitution allows individuals or their legal representatives to seek remedy through higher courts.
The US embassy said the court of appeal should thoroughly look at the manner in which the verdict was reached.
“We welcome the appeals process and look forward to the court fully examining these issues,” Mr. Cebra said.
Ajak Mayol, Kerbino’s advocate had said there were “a lot of procedural issues that never went well, including the detention of the same people in the national security facility which is ungazetted.”
According to the constitution 2011, the decisions of the high court shall be appealed against at the Courts of Appeal, while the decisions of the Court of Appeal shall be appealed against before the Supreme Court.
The decision of the Supreme Court is considered final and binding.
The U.S embassy urged the government ensure that the rights of every citizens are respect as stipulated in the constitution.
“The government must guarantee citizens’ freedom of expression, as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and abide by fair trial guarantees,” Cebra concluded.
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