KHARTOUM, March 20 (Reuters) - A Sudanese court sentenced to death six members of a major Darfur rebel group on Tuesday, including a top commander, the group's lawyer said.
The ruling is another blow to the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), considered to be the most militarily potent of the western region's various rebel factions. Government forces killed the group's leader in December.
"The judge ruled to execute six of the accused and sentenced the seventh to 10 years in prison because he is elderly, 73 years old," said Tohany Abdelrahim, a lawyer for the group.
The charges included terrorism, illegally carrying arms and murder, she said. Ibrahim al-Maz, a senior member of the rebel group, was among those sentenced to death.
JEM spokesman Gibreel Adam Bilal called the decision an "injustice", and accused Sudan's security agencies of pressuring the court to issue the sentence.
"The decision had already been made by the Sudan government and the Sudan security agencies," he said.
Sudan's foreign ministry spokesman did not immediately answer phone calls seeking comment. The government has previously denied its courts are influenced by politics.
Maz, who served as JEM's vice president, was originally from South Sudan, which seceded from the north in July under a 2005 peace deal, Bilal said.
The conflict in Darfur has raged on since mostly-African rebels took up arms there in 2003, accusing the central government of neglecting the region and favouring Arab tribes.
International efforts to broker a peace have failed to end the fighting. Sudan's government signed a Qatar-sponsored peace deal with an umbrella organisation of smaller rebel groups last year, but the major factions refused to join.
Instead, the major factions announced an alliance with one another and with insurgents in two border states which they said aimed to topple the government of President Omar al-Bashir. (Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Alexander Dziadosz; editing by Andrew Roche)