Death by firing squad for Darfuris who beheaded editor

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KHARTOUM, Nov 10 (Reuters) Ten Darfuris accused of beheading a Sudanese journalist were sentenced to death by firing squad today, a punishment usually reserved only for the military, the defence said.

Sudanese editor of the al-Wifaq daily Mohamed Taha was kidnapped by armed men from his home last year and his decapitated body was found the following morning lying on the street in southern Khartoum.

''The court decided to sentence all 10 to death by firing sqaud for which there is no basis in the law,'' said Kamal Omer, leading member of the defence team for the 10 accused, all of whom are from the Darfuri Fur tribe.

The crime shocked the journalism world in Sudan and echoed images of the brutal killings by Al Qaeda militiants in Iraq. Taha was himself an Islamist but had angered others by reprinting an article questioning the roots of the Prophet Mohammed.

Authorities said he also angered Darfuris by writing articles questioning the morals of Darfuri women, while a counter-insurgency campaign in Sudan's west created one of the world's worst humantiarian crises with aid agencies documenting widespread rape.

Omer said the youngest accused was just 16 years old with the others ranging up to their mid-40s. He said the court was influenced by the political establishment in the unprecedented ruling. Anyone condemned to death in Sudan is usually hanged.

''The court was full of security services and government figures,'' he said, adding he would appeal the sentence.

''We will take the legal route, go to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court,'' Omer said.

Omer had himself been imprisoned overnight for making public comments that his clients had been tortured to extract their confessions.

Amnesty International has said they and other political prisoners had also been tortured to try to extract confessions.

The authorities deny any torture.

''This is a police state,that is why we have this backwards, incorrect ruling,'' Omer said.

REUTERS SZ RAI2006

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