KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A Sudanese court upheld a death sentence Monday against four men convicted of murdering a U.S. diplomat and his driver in Khartoum last year in a New Year's killing that shocked the city.
The four, described by the prosecution and witnesses as "religious extremists," were condemned to hang for shooting and killing John Granville, 33, who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and his driver, Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama.
"The sentence is hanging until death," Judge Sidahmed al-Badri told the court.
Granville was the first U.S. official to be killed in Khartoum for more than 30 years. He was returning home from New Year celebrations on January 1, 2008 when he and Rahama were shot in a crime which shocked Sudanese and expatriates in the capital.
The accused, all four of them bearded and wearing white jallabiyas, looked nervous as the judge read out the sentence.
"Under Islamic sharia and Sudanese law, all religions, nationalities and ethnicities are considered equal," the judge said.
Defendant Mohaned Osman shouted: "This sentence is not credible," and said America had murdered Muslims.
FAMILY BACKED SENTENCE
The sentence was reviewed because of procedural problems but the judge said it was confirmed because Granville's family, from Buffalo, in northern New York State, had requested it.
Under Sudanese law, the families of murder victims can choose blood money or the death penalty for retribution.
Rahama's family had pardoned the accused but his wife wanted the death penalty.
The defendants had denied murdering Granville, saying videotaped confessions shown to the court were extracted under torture.
Sudan, under U.S. sanctions, has had strained relations with Washington which accuses Khartoum of state-sponsored terrorism and of atrocities in the western Darfur region.
Relations have improved somewhat as Washington mediates peace efforts in Africa's largest country. Sudanese authorities cooperated with FBI officials on the Granville investigation.
(Reporting by Khaled Abdelaziz, Writing by Opheera McDoom; Editing by Michael Roddy)