[JURIST] A Sudanese court again sentenced four men to death on Monday for the January 2008 murder of two US Agency for International Development (USAID) [official website] employees. The men were previously convicted [JURIST report] and sentenced to death in June for the murders of John Granville and Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama, but their sentences were vacated after Abbas's father forgave them. The sentences were reinstated at the request of both victims' families, as Sudanese law permits victims' families to forgive the murderer, demand compensation, or request execution. Following the original conviction, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] welcomed the convictions as an "important step in bringing justice for" Granville and Rahama. A controversy developed over the issue of whether a Muslim can be sentenced to death for the killing of a non-Muslim. The judge ruled that under Sudanese and Islamic law, all men are equal.
The trial for the men began [JURIST report] last August. Following the shooting, a previously-unknown extremist group calling itself Ansar al-Tawhid claimed responsibility [VOA report] for the shootings. Granville was the first US diplomat killed in Sudan since the deaths of US Ambassador Cleo Noel and US Embassy staffer George Curtis Moore [Arlington Cemetery memorials] in 1973. Tense diplomatic ties between the US and Sudan have been strained by the on-going conflict in the country's western Darfur [JURIST news archive] region.