President Salva Kiir: ‘I will not pardon anyone’
February 6, 2014 [RT] — South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said today that he will not ‘pardon’ any of the remaining four high-level political detainees, suggesting that they could not be released until after a court ruling.
The president was asked since December by mediators of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and by the United States of America and the European Union, to release 11 politicians detained for allegedly trying to overthrow him.
He resisted pressure to do so until 29 January when he released seven of the eleven. “We stood our ground that we cannot release the people without legal procedures being taken. And by that time we had formed an investigation committee,” Kiir said.
The president was speaking today before an audience of SPLM caucus members from the National Assembly and Council of States, at Freedom Hall in Juba.
“When the investigation was handed, the minister of justice made a summary with his team, they came and brought it to me. This is what we have found out. And they have categorized the group into two, A and B.”
Reiterating an announcement made already by the justice minister, Kiir said that ‘group A’ was comprised of Taban Deng Gai, Riek Machar Teny, Alfred Lado Gore, “plus the four who are now under detention,” a reference to Pag’an Amum Okeich, Majak D’Agoot, Oyai Deng Ajak and Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth.
These seven people “played a leading role in attempting to overthrow the government. These are the people who masterminded the whole thing.”
“Group B,” the seven detainees released recently, “played a role” in the coup plot but there was insufficient evidence to bring them to trial, said Kiir. “Whatever contribution they have made was a lesser extent than those in category A,” he said.
No pardon until after court
Kiir also criticized media reporting for inaccuracy in describing the exact terms under which the ‘group B’ detainees were released, noting that they were not ‘pardoned’ nor was there any credence to rumors that the remaining four detainees would be pardoned.
“I will not pardon anyone,” he said, emphasizing that the release of the seven others was not a ‘pardon’ either. “This is what happened, it is the decision of the court that these people are to be released and be returned whenever there is any new evidence against them.”
His reference to a court was unclear because there was no court involved in the release of the seven detainees, only a presidential order to do so.
“I did not pardon anybody and I have no space here to … pardon somebody. My pardon if I am asked to use my constitutional power, it will be ba’ad al mahkama (after the court),” said the president.
Kiir noted, however, that his power to pardon could be used after the detainees are sentenced to either prison or to death. Speaking in a mix of English and South Sudanese Arabic the president said, “Kan zul hakimu bi sijin, kan zul hakimu bi mut (if someone is sentenced to prison, if someone is sentenced to death), this is when you ask the head of state to intervene, to rescue those people, not to be hanged. I thought that was the time people will talk about the pardon.”
Seven released detainees
The seven politicians released into the custody of President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta could be brought back to South Sudan any time if new evidence is brought against them implicating them in the coup plot.
Kiir told his audience at Freedom Hall today, “These people have been released on condition that any time any evidence appears against one or all of them, they should be brought back.”
He said that Kenyatta was advised that “he will have to bring them back” if new evidence is brought.
The president described the decision to send them out from South Sudan as “humanitarian” because it would protect them from death: “If they are seen on the streets of Juba, some people may kill them or a mob may kill them on the streets.”
In remarks earlier in his speech, the president also criticized Rebecca Garang for speaking ‘rubbish’ to the media in Nairobi after he agreed to let her leave the country.