The government of Lakes State has said the six Rumbek teachers who were recently remanded in prison, will appear in court soon for ‘having caused havoc’ during their strike last month.
State Information Minister William Koji said the detained civil servants will be tried for giving misleading information and displaying violent behavior, during the June demonstration.
“No body is against civil rights, but if you claim it by causing chaos then that is very dangerous. You also tell the public that Lakes State Schools have closed, yet that is not the matter,” he said.
Last month, dozens of the primary and secondary school teachers were arrested on orders of the Minister of Education.
Most of them were later released on orders of Governor Riny Tueny, leaving the six teachers.
On Tuesday, the civil servants detained at Panda military prison were transferred to Rumbek main prison without charges.
The former headmasters and inspectors spent more than a month in arbitrary detention without access to justice.
Minister William Koji stated that the trial will commence in a week’s time.
“The court hearing was supposed to start since yesterday, now if they did not start today, it will be the beginning of the coming month,” he said.
However, Daniel Laat, a civil society activist in the state, fears they will not be fairly tried, citing questionable independence of the state judiciary.
“It is the same government that is the complainant is now going to be the one to try the teachers. So I don’t think there will be any fair trial in the court, because the judges that are here, the government will intimidate the judges to rule in its favor,” he said.
Laat, who is the state Coordinator for the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization also denied that the teachers caused chaos or propaganda during the strike
“There is nothing to do with, you know, causing havoc. What the teachers did was to ask for their rights. They were demanding for their arrears to be released, and that’s why they wrote a petition to parliament,” he said.
The activist is urging international human right organizations to provide legal assistance to the teachers, adding that a win for the government means that makes arbitrary detention a norm in the state.
“To all human rights defenders and institutions that are working in the country, you need to come up now to support these teachers by hiring a competent defense lawyer for the, this will help because even though the court in the state is not independent, the lawyer can appeal the case.”
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