23rd July 2024
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Supreme Court frees Rumbek priest convicted in bishop’s shooting

Author: Michael Daniel | Published: Friday, March 22, 2024

Suspects in the shooting of Bishop-elect Christian Carlassare appear in court. (photo: Deniel Michael / Eye Radio)

The Supreme Court has overturned the guilty verdict against a Catholic priest previously convicted for aiding the 2021 shooting of Rumbek Bishop Christian Calassare.

Malith Jokthiang, the defense lawyer of Fr. John Mathiang, said the court found no evidence against his client.

Fr. Mathiang, the former diocesan coordinator for the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek was handed a 7-year-jail term by Juba High Court in 2023 for abetting and aiding the shooting of the religious leader in 2021.

Carlassare, an Italian Comboni priest bound to become a bishop at the time, was shot twice in his legs by gunmen at his residence in Rumbek town of Lakes State, in April 2021.

Fr. Mathiang, alongside Moris Sebit Ater and Lat Makur Agok were found guilty of participating directly or indirectly in the attempted murder of the bishop elect.

Mr. Mathiang was charged with inciting and plotting against Bishop Calassare, while Laat Makur Agok and Moris Ater for executing the attack on the bishop, and another, Samuel Maker for hiding the crime exhibits.

The defense lawyer appealed against the verdict at the Court of Appeal, which maintained Fr. Mathiang’s guilty verdict.

After the defense took the case up to the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court declared the priest innocent.

In an interview with Eye Radio on Friday, Advocate Malith said the court found his client was not part and parcel of the crime, prompting his release.

“What happened was that in 2022, Fr. John Mathiang and other five accused persons were convicted by the High Court for abetting and aiding the shooting of Fr. Calasare, the new Bishop of the Diocese of Rumbek,” narrated.

“So, we appealed the decision to the Court of Apeal, and we took the same appeal again to the Supreme Court and then the Supreme Court ruled that, Fr. John was innocent.”

“There was no evidence to show that he was part and parcel of the crime that took place and so, he was acquitted and relieved.”

Following the shooting incident in 2021, police arrested 35 people in connection with the shooting – most of whom were released over lack of sufficient evidence.

Juba High Court Judge, Alexander Subek Samuel revealed citing investigation that Mathiang and his associates were identified to have colluded in the attempted murder of the bishop.

His phone calls before the crime was retrieved during a police investigation.

The High Court found the three men guilty in accordance with articles 334 of the penal code act 2008.

It states that whoever commits housebreaking by night, having made preparation for causing injury or assaulting any person, shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years and may also be liable to a fine.

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