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Sudan Rebel Leader Returns Home Despite Death Sentence

FILE - Yasir Arman speaks during joint news conference in Khartoum, Dec. 22, 2010.

A Sudanese rebel leader has returned home despite a 2014 death sentence given in abstentia, saying he will stay even though Sudan's military junta has asked him to leave.

Yasir Arman told VOA's South Sudan in Focus that he is in Sudan to help resolve the ongoing standoff over who should lead Sudan's transitional government for the next three years.

Arman, deputy chairman of a faction of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), flew into Khartoum on Saturday after more than 20 years of living in Kenya or in Sudan's restive Blue Nile state and Nuba Mountains area, on the border with South Sudan.

He said the ruling military junta sent him a message Tuesday ordering him to leave, but Arman said he intends to stay, as Sudan is his country.

"This voice for peace and for political settlement is not being heard by the [transitional] military council. That is regrettable because we need this new development in Sudan to take us into a comprehensive peaceful settlement," he said.

Threats from junta

Arman first took up arms against Sudan's government in 1986 with the rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, under the late John Garang.

After South Sudan won independence in 2011, he became involved in the rebellion against then-President Omar al-Bashir in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states.

FILE - Malik Agar, of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), speaks during a joint news conference in Khartoum, July 3, 2011.
FILE - Malik Agar, of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), speaks during a joint news conference in Khartoum, July 3, 2011.

Arman and fellow SPLM-N leader Malik Agar were sentenced to death in absentia in March 2014 by a Sudanese court in Sanjia, Sennar state, for their role in the Blue Nile rebellion. However, Arman is not taking the death sentence seriously.

"I am not scared because that was a political scheme," Arman told VOA. "General Bashir started the war. He removed an elected governor in Blue Nile [state] and he killed the people of the Nuba Mountains and in Blue Nile and we were defending those people.''

The junta has made no public comment on the return of Arman or other SPLM-N leaders.

Arman says that since his return, he has met with leaders of several opposition groups.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.