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Four Sudanese to hang for murder of US official

Court sentences 4 Sudanese men to death over 2008 killing

A Sudanese court upheld a death sentence on Monday against four men convicted of murdering a U.S. official and his driver in Khartoum last year in a New Year's killing that shocked the city.

The four, described by the prosecution and witnesses as "religious extremists," were condemned to hang for shooting and killing John Granville, 33, who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and his driver, Abdul Rahman Abbas Rahama.

"The sentence is hanging until death," Judge Sidahmed al-Badri told the court.

Granville was the first U.S. official to be killed in Khartoum for more than 30 years. He was returning home from New Year celebrations on Jan. 1, 2008 when he and Rahama were shot in a crime which shocked Sudanese and expatriates in the capital.

The accused, all four of them bearded and wearing white jallabiyas, looked nervous as the judge read out the sentence.

"Under Islamic sharia and Sudanese law, all religions, nationalities and ethnicities are considered equal," the judge said.

Defendant Mohaned Osman shouted: "This sentence is not credible," and said America had murdered Muslims.

The court had sentenced the men to death in June for killing Granville and his driver in January 2008, but the sentence was cancelled in August after Abbas's father then forgave the men.

Under Islamic law, the victim's family has the right to forgive the murderer, ask for compensation (fedia) or demand execution.

Granville's mother, Jane Granville, at the time had asked for the men's execution, but her letter was rejected because it was not notarized.

The judge said the sentence was confirmed because Granville's family, from Buffalo, in northern New York State, had requested it.

The defendants had denied murdering Granville, saying videotaped confessions shown to the court were extracted under torture.

Sudan, under U.S. sanctions, has had strained relations with Washington which accuses Khartoum of state-sponsored terrorism and of atrocities in the western Darfur region.

Relations have improved somewhat as Washington mediates peace efforts in Africa's largest country. Sudanese authorities cooperated with FBI officials on the Granville investigation.

Under Islamic sharia and Sudanese law, all religions, nationalities and ethnicities are considered equal

The Sudanese judge