South Sudan drops kidnap charges against U.S. citizen

Reuters News

12/7/2012 6:56:02 AM - Reuters News

JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan dropped its case against an American citizen who it had held on kidnap charges but whose wife said was a victim of an extortion attempt by security agents, a U.S. official said on Friday.

Elton Mark McCabe was arrested in October, accused of plotting to kidnap an Indian businessman for a $5 million ransom. His Iraqi business partner Mohammed Oglah was also detained.

"We can confirm that the High Court of Central Equatoria State dismissed the case against Mr. Elton McCabe and Mr. Mohammed Oglah," Oliver Mains, spokesman for the U.S. embassy in the capital Juba, told Reuters by email.

Both men had denied the charges, and McCabe's wife said he had been beaten by security agents trying to extort $100,000 for his release.

South Sudan's security forces have not publicly commented on McCabe's case, and officials were not immediately available to comment on Friday.

The government of South Sudan, which broke away from Sudan in July last year, has been attempting to establish law and order across its vast territory, much of it remote, but rights groups say suspects are often not given basic legal rights.

Agok Makur, lawyer for the two men, said South Sudan's justice ministry had withdrawn the case on Thursday.

"Mohammed and Elton are free. It was a wonderful day because it shows that justice was done in a good way," he told Reuters.

The pair, who run the construction and consultancy firm Diamond Corporation, said they were held in total darkness for 36 hours and initially denied medical treatment and consular assistance.

(Reporting by Hereward Holland; Editing by Pravin Char)