January 31, 2023 (KHARTOUM) – This week, Sudanese authorities released Abdel Raouf Abu Zaid Hamza who was convicted of killing John Granville, an American diplomat working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and his driver in Khartoum exactly 15 years ago. A Sudanese court found him guilty and sentenced him to death along with three other participants.
On what legal basis was Hamza released?
The high court issued a ruling that freed Hamza after inquiring with the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and confirming that Granville’s family received financial compensation as part of a larger settlement package finalized in late 2020 involving multiple terrorist incidents, his brother Abd al-Malik told Sudan Tribune.
What were the details of the settlement?
The United States announced in March 2021 that it had received $335 million from Sudan to compensate the victims of the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the bombing of the USS Cole destroyer in 2000 as well as Granville’s assassination. The specific amount received by his family was not disclosed. In return, the United States removed Sudan from the list of states that sponsor terrorism and reinstated its sovereign immunity.
Why are some suspicious of the motives behind the ruling?
There is a strong belief within some political groups that participated in the December 2018 uprising that brought about the demise of the Bashir regime that the High Court is dominated by Islamic-leaning judges who have ascended to their positions by virtue of their ideology.
Did the family of the Sudanese victims pardon the killers?
Abd al-Malik confirmed to Sudan Tribune that the father of the Sudanese victim Abd al-Rahman Abbas Rahma has agreed to forfeit the demand for the death penalty to the killers in 2009 in response to mediation led by Sheikh Muhammad Sayed Haj, a prominent member of the Ansar al-Sunna al-Muhammadiyah group, in which Abd al-Raouf’s late father held the position of president.
“Since that pardon removed the death penalty, the prison sentence remained until the settlement was completed in 2021. It is not clear to us why Hamza’s release was delayed since that time, as his accomplices escaped from prison, and he became the only one under punishment.”
Lawyers in Khartoum indicate that Hamza was not released at the time because he was serving a prison sentence for the “common right,” and he was released after it was completed on January 30th.
Did the man renounce extremist ideology?
Sudan Tribune met with Hamza on the morning of his release at his home in Omdurman, but he declined to give any press interviews, while his brother confirmed that the man-made deep intellectual revisions and renounced his extreme views after dialogues initiated with him by the late Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Hajj.
“I assure you, he has now been completely changed as a result of those revisions, and he has announced that he has completely rejected those ideas,” his brother said.
US State Department responds:
According to Reuters, the US State Department said it was aware of reports that Hamza had been released.
“Our embassy is engaging government officials to obtain more information. We call for full accountability for the murders of John Granville and his Sudanese colleague Abdelrahman Abbas Rahma,” a State Department spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that Hamza remains listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by Washington. He has been so designated since 2013.
John Granville and his Sudanese driver Abdel-Rahman Abbas Rahma were shot dead on the 2008 New Year’s Eve by men believed to be belonging to an Islamic militant group Ansar al-Tawhid which claimed responsibility for the killing.
Sudan hosted al-Qaeda deceased leader Osama bin Laden and leftist militant Carlos the Jackal in the early 1990s and became a hub for Islamic movements, which led to international isolation, as the United States classified it as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993.
Sudan’s position changed in wake of the 9/11 attacks and al-Bashir began to cooperate with the United States to combat terrorism.