August 17, 2008 / 2:02 PM / 11 years ago

Five men appear in Sudan court over U.S. killing

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Five Sudanese men, including a former army officer, made their first appearance in court on Sunday to face charges over the New Year’s Day killing in Khartoum of a U.S. aid worker and his driver.

U.S. diplomat John Granville (C) poses in this undated photo from the U.S. Agency for International Development, released August 8, 2008. REUTERS/USAID/Handout

The five men, wearing traditional skull caps and white robes, were greeted outside the heavily guarded Khartoum court buildings by a group of supporters who raised fists in the air and flashed V-for-victory signs.

Security guards barred all journalists from entering the court room, apart from one reporter from Sudan’s state controlled SUNA news agency.

John Granville, a 33-year-old officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development, was shot dead while returning home from New Year celebrations in Khartoum early on January 1. His driver, Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama, 39, was also killed.

Granville was the first U.S. government official to be killed in Khartoum in more than three decades.

Days after the attack, a previously unknown group calling itself Ansar al-Tawhid (Companions of Monotheism) in Sudan, posted a message on a website used by militants claiming responsibility for the killings.

After the 40-minute hearing on Sunday, a member of the defense told journalists the judge registered the defendants’ names then adjourned because there were no lawyers present representing the prosecution or the families of the victims.

defense lawyer Adil Abdel Ghani said the defendants were Mohamed Osman Yusuf Mohamed, a 29-year-old former officer in the Sudanese army, Mohamed Makkawi Ibrahim Mohamed, a 23-year-old civil engineering student, Abdel Basit al-Hajj Hassan, a 29-year-old trader, Abdel Raouf Abu Zaid Mohamed, a 23-year-old merchant, and Morad Abdel Rahman, 35, who described himself as a driver.

A U.S. embassy spokesman said a team including officers from the FBI and the U.S Bureau of Diplomatic Security had been in court during the proceedings.

Abdel Ghani said the judge had told a lawyer representing the U.S. embassy that she would be able to witness the case but take no active part in the proceedings. He added the case would resume on August 31.

Additional reporting by Khaled Abdelaziz, Editing by Mary Gabriel

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