Catholic Priest among Suspects Sentenced for Shooting Bishop-elect in South Sudan

Some of the suspects arranged in court from one to six based on their role in the attempted murder of Bishop Christian Carlassare of Rumbek Diocese. Credit: Deniel Michael/Eye Radio

A Catholic Priest is among four suspects sentenced over the shooting of the then Bishop-elect for the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek in South Sudan, now Bishop Christian Carlassare.

In the Monday, April 25 ruling that had been expected on mid-April, the judge at the High Court in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, said Fr. John Mathiang Machol, Moris Sebit Ater, Laat Makur Agok, and Samuel Makir were found guilty of “participating directly or indirectly” in the attempted assassination of Bishop Carlassare.

In a Catholic Radio Network (CRN) report about the case that was first mentioned on January 26, Justice Alexander Sebur Subek handed a seven-year jail term for three suspects in the case of the shooting of the Italian-born member of the Comboni Missionaries in the early hours of 26 April 2021.

“Fr. John Mathiang of Rumbek Diocese, Sebit Morris Ater and Laat Makur Agok are sentenced to seven years imprisonment without bail under Penal Code 334, 4,335, 2008,” Justice Sebur Subek has been quoted as saying during the April 25 session at the South Sudanese High Court in Juba.

The phone calls of Fr. Mathiang “before the crime were retrieved during a police investigation”, a report by Eye Radio on April 25 indicates.


In the CRN report that was obtained by ACI Africa, Justice Sebur Subek is further quoted as saying that the sentencing of Mr. Sebit and Mr. Laat was based on the evidence before the court that the duo “went with ammunition to shoot the bishop in his house” in the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek.

Mr. Makir who is to serve a five-year sentence, the judge said, was found guilty of “keeping two guns that were used for the attempted assassination and providing the assassins with Itel phone for communication,” the CRN report further indicates. 

The sentencing starts on the day each of the suspects was arrested, Justice Sebur Subek reportedly said, adding that the first suspect, Fr. Mathiang, will serve his seven-year jail period from 7 May 2021.

Reacting to the verdict, the defense lawyer, Malith Mading reportedly disagrees with the findings of the judge and cites “lack of concrete evidence in the sentencing of the defendants”.

Mr. Mading is quoted as saying, “We agree with the decision but we disagree with the finding of the judge. The finding was not based on any law or any evidence.”

More in Africa

“As far as the law is concerned you cannot convict an accused person on evidence of another accused,” Mr. Mading says in the Eye Radio report, and continues, “This evidence was not presented by the prosecution team and as section Thirty-Four, of the evidence act, should have been applicable and if the judge has ignored it we have the right to appeal and we are going to appeal the decision.”

In a Monday, April 25 statement obtained by ACI Africa, Bishop Carlassare says he acknowledges the verdict of the High court and that he prays for “conversion and healing”.

“On behalf of the Diocese of Rumbek, we acknowledge today’s verdict,” the Bishop who was consecrated on March 25, after waiting for more than 12 months since he his appointment, said.

Bishop Carlassare adds, “We appreciate the commitment and dedication of the Government and the Court.”

“Though sad for what has happened and the resulting sufferings, we pray that truth may bring conversion and healing,” he says. 


The Bishop whose Episcopal Motto, “Omnes unum in Christo (you are all one in Christ Jesus)”, is taken from St Paul to the Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”, adds in his April 25 statement, “As a Church, we look forward with hope during this Easter time and remember Jesus’ call for forgiveness and unity.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.