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South Sudan Drops Kidnapping Charge Against American and Iraqi

A South Sudanese judge dismissed kidnapping charges against an American and an Iraqi, their lawyer and the U.S. Embassy said.

Business partners Elton Mark McCabe, from Slidell, Louisiana, and Mohamed Oglah were detained on Oct. 14 by National Security Service agents who accused them of trying to kidnap an Indian businessman. The U.S. Embassy confirmed the dismissal of the case in an e-mailed statement.

“There was no evidence and the judge dismissed the case,” said lawyer Agok Makur today by phone from Juba, South Sudan’s capital. The Minister of Justice, John Luk Jok, wrote to the court asking it to withdraw the charges, he said.

McCabe and Oglah, who run a construction and consulting company called Diamond Corp., told reporters in Juba on Nov. 24 that security agents fabricated the charges and detained them in a windowless cell without notifying the police or the U.S Embassy. They were later transferred to Juba prison and into the custody of police who ordered their release after a visit from U.S. Ambassador Susan Page.

McCabe said security agents re-arrested them as they were walking to a waiting U.S. Embassy vehicle after being released. They were freed on bail Nov. 22. The U.S. had said it was “deeply concerned” about the arbitrary detention of people including McCabe.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a Nov. 8 report to the Security Council that the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan is working with the government to end “prolonged arbitrary detention.”

At least a third of the prison population in South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in July 2011, hasn’t been convicted of a crime or even charged, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report in June.

Liam McDowall, a spokesman for the UN mission, said human rights officers have assisted the government in resolving more than 350 cases.

“Arbitrary detention is one of the most serious issues that we’re looking at,” he told reporters in Juba Dec. 3. “It is a subject we’ve discussed often with the government.”

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