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Published: Wednesday January 29, 2014 MYT 10:45:02 PM
Updated: Wednesday January 29, 2014 MYT 10:45:02 PM

South Sudan frees seven detainees accused of coup plot

NAIROBI (Reuters) - South Sudan freed seven political figures on Wednesday who had been arrested on suspicion of plotting a coup, partially meeting a rebel demand at peace talks focused on ending weeks of fighting.

The seven, who were handed over to neighbouring Kenya, were among a group of 11 detained after fighting broke out in South Sudan's capital in mid-December and spread across the world's newest country.

"We don't feel bitter, we don't feel the president is our enemy," one of the freed men, South Sudan's former justice minister John Luk Jok, told reporters in Kenya's capital Nairobi.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir accused his former vice president Riek Machar of starting the fighting in a bid to seize power.

Machar, who is in hiding, denies the charge and accuses Kiir if using an outburst of violence to round up his political rivals.

Kiir has since been under intense pressure from regional powers, Washington and the United Nations to respond to Machar's demand to free all 11 detainees to push forward shaky peace talks taking place in Ethiopia.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, who appeared with the freed detainees, said east African leaders would continue pressing Kiir for the release of the four others who remain in detention and may face treason charges.

South Sudan's justice minister on Tuesday said the seven would be released because of insufficient evidence against them.

(Reporting by James Macharia; Writing by Richard Lough)

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