KHARTOUM, SUDAN - A Sudanese court convicted five people Wednesday in the slayingof an American diplomat last year and sentenced four of them todeath.
Gunmen firing from a car killed John Granville and his Sudanesedriver on Jan. 1, 2008, as he was returning home from a New Year'sparty in Khartoum, Sudan's capital.
Granville, from Buffalo, N.Y., worked for the U.S. Agency forInternational Development. The 33-year-old was working to implementa 2005 peace agreement between Sudan's north and south that endedmore than two decades of civil war.
It was the first time an American had been killed in Sudan since1973, when two diplomats were slain by Palestinian militants. Fourof the defendants were convicted of murder, possession of firearmsand other charges and sentenced to death by hanging.
One of them is a former Sudanese army officer who was in activeservice at the time of Granville's slaying. He was dismissed afterhe was implicated in the case.
A fifth defendant was convicted of selling the weapons used inthe attack and sentenced to two years in prison. The five men saythey were coerced to confess to the American's
killing. Their lawyer said he would appeal Wednesday'sruling.
In the attack, a vehicle cut off Granville's car and itsoccupants opened fire before fleeing. His driver, Abdel-RahmanAbbas, 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 theassailants acted out of "religious zeal" and that the group waslooking for a Western target during New Year's Eve elebrations.
He said the men attacked Granville after finding thatpotential targets among places they expected to be crowded orhaving celebrations were closed or empty.
The shooting came a day after former President George W. Bushsigned legislation to allow states and local governments to cutinvestment ties with Sudan because of the fighting in the westernSudanese region of Darfur, where up to 300,000 people have beenkilled and 2.7 million displaced.
The chief investigator in the case had testified that theassailants also planned to kill a British diplomat in the countryin revenge for a British schoolteacher's decision to let her youngstudents name a toy bear Muhammad, the same name as Islam'sfounder.
The British diplomat, however, escaped unharmed when hedisappeared into a crowd, the police investigator said.
PERSONAL STATEMENT FROM THE GRANVILLE FAMILY ON THE SENTENCINGOF THE DEFENDANTS FOR THE MURDER OF USAID EMPLOYEES JOHN GRANVILLEAND ABDEL RAHMAN ABBAS
Today in Sudan, four men were sentenced for the murder of JohnGranville and Abdel Rahman Abbas. John was our beloved son, dearbrother, 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 peoplehe loved, as we loved him. He believed he could help them make abetter life and a better future for their children. John gave hislife, both for his country and for Africa - - even as we gaveAfrica our John, knowing that he died as he had lived - - true tohis beliefs. The fact remains, however, this has been the greatestpossible personal loss for his family and friends.
This act was no less than an assassination. John’sposition as an American in Africa, a Westerner in an automobilewith diplomatic plates, made him a target for people of ill intent.His driver, Mr. Abbas, paid with his life as well. Under theSudanese legal system, money can be offered in exchange for a morelenient sentence. It is called, “blood money” and boththe Granville and the Abbas families have chosen to reject it. Nomoney can buy our silence to these murders. The offering of it isclearly an act of admission of guilt, and our rejection of it isclearly a condemnation of this act.
We must publicly thank USAID employees Kate Almquist, StephanieFunk, Teresa McGhie, and Idris Diaz, all of whom knew Johnpersonally and worked alongside him. They enabled us to reach thispoint in the trial; without them our understanding of the casewould have been incomplete. Their knowledge of Africa and theAfrican people, their advice, counsel and concern has allowed us toreach closure today. We would also like to give special thanks toCongressman Brian Higgins and US Attorney William Hochul for theirpersonal 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 allthose who, like him, dedicated themselves to freedom and justice.Thank you.
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