[JURIST] A Sudanese court on Wednesday convicted five men of the January 2008 murder of two US Agency for International Development (USAID) [official website] employees, sentencing four to death. Mohamed Makkawi Ibrahim Mohamed and Abdel Basit al-Hajj Hassan were found guilty of firing shots that killed USAID workers John Granville and Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama while they were returning from a New Year's Eve party. Mohamed Osman Yusuf Mohamed and Abdel Raouf Abu Zaid Mohamed were found guilty of driving and being a passenger in the gunmen's vehicle, respectively. A fifth defendant was found guilty of illegally dealing in weapons and sentenced to two years in prison. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] welcomed [press release] the convictions as an "important step in bringing justice for" Granville and Rahama. The US Embassy in Khartoum [official website] issued a Warden Security Message [text] on Tuesday warning U.S citizens to avoid downtown Khartoum in light of possible anti-American and anti-Western demonstrations following the rulings.
The trial for the five Sudanese men began [JURIST report] in August in Khartoum. 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.