NAIROBI (Reuters) - A South Sudanese economist and political activist appeared in court in Juba for the first time on Thursday, more than seven months after he was detained after criticizing the country’s faltering peace process.
Peter Biar Ajak, the South Sudan country director for the London School of Economics’ International Growth Centre, based in Britain, has yet to be formally charged, his attorney Monyluak Alor Kuol told Reuters outside the high court.
Pressure, including from scholars and U.S. senators, has been mounting on Sudanese authorities to release Ajak, who also formerly worked as a World Bank economist.
The court session was attended by personnel from various diplomatic missions including the U.S and Canada and Ajak appeared alongside six other detainees also arrested last year.
Philip Anyang a second lawyer for Ajak told Reuters although prosecutors were yet to disclose the charges he understood they would likely revolve around insurgency, violence, sabotage and banditry.
A judge said the charges would be read to Ajak on March 25 when an English translator is expected to be present, as the session was conducted in Arabic.
Kuol said he had requested his client be transferred from military detention to a civilian facility.
South Sudan was plunged into civil war in 2013, two years after gaining independence, after political disagreements between President Salva Kiir and his then deputy, Riek Machar, degenerated into a military confrontation.
At its peak, the conflict uprooted a quarter of the country’s population of 12 million and devastated its oil-dependent economy.
A regionally brokered deal last year, which had Machar return to government again as Kiir’s deputy, ended the fighting although pockets of insurgency remain in some parts.
Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Alison Williams