The attempted murder trial on the life of the bishop-elect of Rumbek entered the second week in Juba High Court. Judges continue hearing pieces of evidence from witnesses.
On Friday, a forth witness testified that the attack that left Bishop wounded was a plan from a church member. Fr. Christian Carlassare was shot and wounded on both legs by a group of armed men who attacked his residence in April last year.
The high court started the trial of six suspects who were later arrested by the authority in connection to the shooting of the bishop-elect. Among the suspect is Fr. John Mathiang, one of the Catholic Church leaders in Rumbek.
Johan Marier Mabeng, a thirty-seven-year-old, says he is a youth coordinator in the Catholic Church in Rumbek. He told the court that the attack on Bishop came after a long dispute over the church leadership.
Marier told the court that father John Mathiang tried to mobilize youth to reject the bishop-elect before his arrival and threatened those not supporting the idea.
“On 13 April 2021, before the arrival of the elect bishop wanted to fight with me in the church compound when I had visited a sick priest Fr. Erneo Marik. He threatened me in the local language and said two things. One was “Kawaja kuachthaar de’’ and the second “yiin banok” he said.
He told the court to have reported the threat made against him to the national security and police. However, it was not considered serious and didn’t take any action. He said this was not the first time the priest has threatened to burn the church into ashes if he is not elected as the Bishop of Rumbek Diocese.
‘’I want to say this is the power struggle concerning the incident that happened. It is not a surprise to the people of Rumbek because there is already a problem. He said there was a leadership struggle, and the incident was not an ordinary incident but a long-term plan.
Marier also identified four suspects as the relatives of father John Mathiang, including one of the prime suspects who shot the Bishop.
“And those who he brought and are involved in this incident are all not members of the church. They are his relatives because all the youth refused to support him because of violence. That is why he brought his relatives to come and complete his plan mission in the church.’’
One of the accused, Gabriel Deng Dut, declared he doesn’t need a defense lawyer, and he will defend himself in court.
One of the defense lawyers Malith Jokthiang, said it is the right of the accused to decide to defend himself or hire an advocate. He acknowledges that the court proceedings are fair, and the judge knows what he is doing in all the steps that the proceedings have taken.
“The court is free and fair; we have educated the court about the situation in the church and even the relation between the witnesses and those accused; the court has known that.” He told the media.
The hearing is expected to resume again on Monday, 21 February 2022, to hear the accused response and defense lawyer.