SOUTH SUDAN: Priest Involved in Bishop’s Shooting Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison

By Odiwuor Opiyo

JUBA, APRIL 26, 2022 (CISA) – Fr John Mathiang Machol, a priest working in the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek, South Sudan, was on April 25, sentenced to a 7-year jail term in connection with the shooting of Bishop Christian Carlassare after he was appointed bishop of Rumbek.

Reading the verdict, Judge Alexander Subek Samuel said, “The punishment and the final order. One, jail for convicts John Mathiang Machol, Morris Sebit Ater and Laat Makur Agok for seven years for their offences of two articles 334 sub-article 4 and 335 of South Sudan penal code 2008. Two, jail for three convicts mentioned in the above provision for seven years for their offence of article 208 of South Sudan panel 2008.Three jail for convicts Morris Sebit Ater and Laat Makur Agok for their offences for four years for their offences on article 72 of South Sudan penal code of 2008, and that’s start as it’s their arrest in day one, the first accused in date 7th May 2021 and the sixth accused on date 7th June and 11th June 2021 and Penalties apply sequentially.”

The suspects who were charged with attempted murder of the then bishop-elect Carlassare were each found guilty of direct or indirect involvement in the plot hence the sentences. Fr Mathiang was additionally charged with inciting and plotting the attack on the bishop.

The defense lawyer Malith Mading, however, intimated mounting an appeal in fifteen days citing the basis of the decision as not resting upon prosecution evidence.

“We agree with the decision but we disagree with the finding of the judge. The finding was not based on any law or any evidence as far as the law is concerned you cannot convict an accused person on evidence of another accused,” said Mr Mading adding, “This evidence was not presented by the prosecution team and as section Thirty-Four, of the evidence act, should have been applicable and if the judge has ignored it we have the right to appeal and we are going to appeal the decision.”

According to reports by local media in the country, Monsignor Carlassare who was consecrated bishop of Rumbek on March 25, 2022, hailed the verdict.

“We appreciate the commitment and dedication of the government and the court. Though sad for what has happened and the resulting suffering. We pray that truth may bring conversion and healing. As a church, we look forward with hope and remember Jesus for forgiveness and Unity,” Bishop Carlassare is reported to have said.

Fr Mathiang was arrested together with 23 other suspects after Bishop Carlassare was shot in his residence on April 26, 2021. Other suspects were released on account of insufficient evidence However, call records from Fr Mathiang’s mobile phone were part of the evidence implicating him in the crime alongside a confession of one of the suspects in the shooting.