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Page last updated at 17:04 GMT, Tuesday, 29 July 2008 18:04 UK

Death sentence for Sudan rebels

Burnt-out vehicles in Omdurman
Rebels reached Khartoum's twin city, Omdurman, in May.

A judge in Sudan has sentenced eight Darfur rebels to death over an assault near the capital, Khartoum, in May.

Those convicted are all from the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (Jem). One suspect was found not guilty.

The attack on Omdurman, Khartoum's twin city, was the closest Darfur's rebel groups had come to the capital in five years of conflict.

The defendants stood in silence as the judge read out the verdict, AFP news agency reported.

The sentences have to be ratified both by an appeals court and the country's top court, then signed by the president, AFP said.

More than 220 people were reported to have been killed in May's attack, which was followed by a security crackdown and mass arrests.

Human rights concerns

Sudan set up special courts in Omdurman and Khartoum to try the suspects.

At the time, human rights groups said they were worried about the possible torture of those detained.

Two organisations - Human Rights Watch and the Aegis Trust - said eyewitnesses had given unconfirmed reports of summary executions during the crackdown.

The government promised that all of those arrested would get a fair trial.

Jem is one of several rebel groups fighting the government and pro-government Janjaweed militia in Sudan's western Darfur region over alleged discrimination by the authorities in favour of Arabs.

Sudan has accused neighbouring Chad of backing Jem, which Chad denies.

Analysts say Chad and Sudan are fighting a proxy war using each other's rebels.

According to a UN estimate, some 300,000 have died in the conflict in Darfur and more than 2 million have been displaced.


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