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South Sudan sentences South African to hang for helping rebel chief

JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan sentenced a South African ex-colonel to death on Friday after convicting him of trying to bring down the government.

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Retired colonel William Endley, 55, had been providing advice to former-vice-president-turned-rebel-leader Riek Machar, whose forces have been fighting a civil war since 2013.

Sentencing him to hang, Judge Lado Eriminio Sekwat said Endley had 15 days to appeal.

Endley was convicted of conspiracy, supplying weapons, espionage, waging an insurgency, sabotage, terrorism and illegal entry into South Sudan.

Defence lawyer Gardit Abel Gar called the verdict a miscarriage of justice and said Endley, who plans to appeal, was a political prisoner who should have been freed under a December ceasefire agreement.

During the trial, Endley attempted to call six witnesses in his defence but none showed up to testify.

“The court chooses to be incompetent and partial in the process,” Gar said.

“It is ... inconsistent with the just-signed cessation of hostilities agreement which has stated that all political detainees and prisoners of war should have been released.”

South Africa’s Department of International Relations said they would be reviewing the verdict.

“Our embassy in South Sudan will brief Head Office on the judgement and we will take it from there,” said spokesman Nelson Kgwete.

Endley was on trial alongside a former spokesman for Machar who was handed the death sentence earlier this month for incitement and conspiracy against President Salva Kiir’s government.

South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011 and descended into civil war in 2013, months after Kiir fired Machar as his deputy. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and a third of the population have fled their homes.

Machar fled to Democratic Republic of Congo after fierce fighting broke out in Juba in July 2016 and is now in South Africa under virtual house arrest.

Reporting by Denis Dumo; additional reporting by Nqobile Dludla in Johannesburg; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Robin Pomeroy