U.S. diplomat John Granville and his driver were shot to death by gunmen who opened fire on their car in Sudan.
Updated: Wednesday, 24 Jun 2009, 12:58 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 24 Jun 2009, 11:35 AM EDT
KHARTOUM, SUDAN - A Sudanese court convicted five people Wednesday in the slaying of an American diplomat last year and sentenced four of them to death.
Gunmen firing from a car killed John Granville and his Sudanese driver on Jan. 1, 2008, as he was returning home from a New Year's party in Khartoum, Sudan's capital.
Granville, from Buffalo, N.Y., worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development. The 33-year-old was working to implement a 2005 peace agreement between Sudan's north and south that ended more than two decades of civil war.
It was the first time an American had been killed in Sudan since 1973, when two diplomats were slain by Palestinian militants. Four of the defendants were convicted of murder, possession of firearms and other charges and sentenced to death by hanging.
One of them is a former Sudanese army officer who was in active service at the time of Granville's slaying. 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 five men say
they were coerced to confess to the American's
killing. Their lawyer said he would appeal Wednesday's ruling.
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.
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 elebrations.
He said the men attacked Granville after finding that potential targets among places they expected to be crowded or having celebrations were closed or empty.
The shooting came a day after former President George W. Bush signed legislation to allow states and local governments to cut investment ties with Sudan because of the fighting in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, where up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million displaced.
The chief investigator in the case had testified that the assailants also planned to kill a British diplomat in the country in revenge for a British schoolteacher's decision to let her young students name a toy bear Muhammad, the same name as Islam's founder.
The British diplomat, however, escaped unharmed when he disappeared into a crowd, the police investigator said.
PERSONAL STATEMENT FROM THE GRANVILLE FAMILY ON THE SENTENCING OF THE DEFENDANTS FOR THE MURDER OF USAID EMPLOYEES JOHN GRANVILLE AND ABDEL RAHMAN ABBAS
Today in Sudan, four men were sentenced for the murder of John Granville and Abdel Rahman Abbas. John was our beloved son, dear brother, and friend. Although the guilty sentence brings us relief, not even justice can bring him back to us.
John spent a good part of his life in Africa, among the people he loved, as we loved him. He believed he could help them make a better life and a better future for their children. John gave his life, both for his country and for Africa - - even as we gave Africa our John, knowing that he died as he had lived - - true to his beliefs. The fact remains, however, this has been the greatest possible personal loss for his family and friends.
This act was no less than an assassination. John’s position as an American in Africa, a Westerner in an automobile with diplomatic plates, made him a target for people of ill intent. His driver, Mr. Abbas, paid with his life as well. Under the Sudanese legal system, money can be offered in exchange for a more lenient sentence. It is called, “blood money” and both the Granville and the Abbas families have chosen to reject it. No money can buy our silence to these murders. The offering of it is clearly an act of admission of guilt, and our rejection of it is clearly a condemnation of this act.
We must publicly thank USAID employees Kate Almquist, Stephanie Funk, Teresa McGhie, and Idris Diaz, all of whom knew John personally and worked alongside him. They enabled us to reach this point in the trial; without them our understanding of the case would have been incomplete. Their knowledge of Africa and the African people, their advice, counsel and concern has allowed us to reach closure today. We would also like to give special thanks to Congressman Brian Higgins and US Attorney William Hochul for their personal and professional support.
Despite our tragedy, which is a loss for Africa as well, John’s memory will live on in the hearts and minds of all those who, like him, dedicated themselves to freedom and justice. Thank you.