Two leaders from the mainandnbsp;rebel alliance fighting Sudan's president and 15 members ofandnbsp;their group were sentenced to death in absentia,andnbsp;their lawyer said, a move that will raise the stakes in fightingandnbsp;in southern regions.
Malik Agar, who was governor of Sudan's remote Blue Nileandnbsp;state before taking up arms, and Yassir Arman, who stood againstandnbsp;Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in the 2010 elections, both received death sentences, lawyer Altujani Hassan told Reuters on Thursday.
"The judge Abdelmonem Youness sentenced (them) over stagingandnbsp;a war against the state... and terrorism," Altujani Hassan said.
Agar is now the head, and Arman the secretary general, ofandnbsp;the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N), which is particularly active in southern Blue Nile and oil-producingandnbsp;South Kordofan regions.
The movement is part of a rebel umbrella group, also coveringandnbsp;strife-torn Darfur in the west, that says it is fighting toandnbsp;bring in democratic reforms and topple Bashir. Khartoum hasandnbsp;branded its members terrorists.
The sentence came weeks after the African Union adjournedandnbsp;talks it was brokering between SPLM-N and Sudan's government,andnbsp;saying both sides were deadlocked.
Fighting between the two sides has displaced or severelyandnbsp;affected more than 900,000 people, according to the Unitedandnbsp;Nations.
SPLM-N includes many fighters who sided with South Sudaneseandnbsp;rebels in decades of civil war that ended in a 2005 peace dealandnbsp;that paved the way, in 2011, to the secession of South Sudan.
Both Agar and Arman were senior members of South Sudan'sandnbsp;rebel SPLM, which is now that country's ruling party.andnbsp;
Khartoum has accused South Sudan of backing the rebels inandnbsp;South Kordofan and Blue Nile - states on the border between theandnbsp;two countries. South Sudan's government has dismissed theandnbsp;accusation.