Trial adjourned after suspects linked to Sherikat incident failed to show up
The trial of suspects accused of killing civilians during last year’s Sherikat incident was adjourned on Wednesday after the suspects failed to show up.
23 defendants were to appear before a panel of three judges in the capital Juba.
The court was to uphold charges and listen to findings of investigations into the deadly incident. In June last year, at least six people were killed in Juba’s Sherikat neighbourhood when an army officer identified as a distant relative of President Salva Kiir allowed his soldiers to shoot civilians.
The main suspect, Lual Akook Wol Kiir ordered the shooting of civilians after wrangles over a disputed piece of land in Sherikat. According to the government, Lual Akook was also killed during the fighting.
Following the incident, hundreds of residents in Sherikat blocked roads with barricades in protest against the loss of lives.
During the court session on Wednesday, Legal Counsel Sabri Wani Lado asked the court for an adjournment, saying only three defendants appeared before the special court.
The presiding judge, Douth Kulang agreed to adjourn the session to March 1.
“The court session has been adjourned due to the absence of the complainant, the doctor and neutral witnesses, including the defendants. There are 23 suspects. The guarantors must bring the defendants as ordered by the panel of the court judges,” Kulang said.
Philip Anyany, a defense lawyer of the accused, said the court sitting was adjourned because most of the suspects are still being held by Military Intelligence and also informed on short notice.
“Some of the accused who are on bail were not given sufficient time to appear. The summons was given on short notice and most of them were not informed at the right time. So the court gave time for them to appear on the 1st of March. Basically, it is the time that was an issue,” Philip said.
“I think there was no letter given to the military to have those people appear before the court. The court has directed that a letter be presented to the authority so that these people appear before the court,” he added.
Edmund Yakani, head of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), which promotes civil society values, said: “In principle, I appreciate the application of the rule of law. It is a good sign that the rule of law is now being embraced by the government by setting up a court to address the Sherikat issue.”
“I am encouraging the parties to the special court to respond trimly so the court can apply the law of law. So, I welcome it but I encourage the parties to be effective in terms of commitment in responding,” he added.