Eastern Sudan prosecutors dismiss charges against ‘Islamist hardliners’

Islamist hardliners Ahmed Harun, Ali Osman Taha, Abdelrahman Khidir, and Awad El Jaz (Photo: social media)

The public prosecutor in Kassala in eastern Sudan has cancelled the arrest warrants against former leaders of the defunct Omar Al Bashir regime. In neighbouring El Gedaref, the prosecution dismissed charges against the state governor and other officials accused of covering up activities of Islamist hardliners in the state capital. The army is allegedly recruiting new soldiers along tribal lines. According to a recent report, the influence of prominent leaders of the Al Bashir regime is growing in Sudan.

Lawyer Ramzi Yahya told Radio Dabanga from El Gedaref on Tuesday that the public prosecutor informed him and his team on Wednesday about the decision issued on August 6 to write off the charges against the state governor and others “for the lack of capacity and failure to obtain the necessary permission”.

The Democratic Lawyers Alliance considers the decision “a serious violation of the law”, and is in the process of appealing the decision, Yahya said. “We are also preparing for filing official complaints against affiliates of the former regime and several officials in El Gedaref.”

The prosecution had set Wednesday to hear witnesses. “Though we were informed by the prosecutor that the official complaints had been written off, we did listen to the statements of whistleblower Jaafar Khidir,” the lawyer added.

“The official complaints submitted in El Gedaref concern political activities in a hall in the city in June, organised by Ahmed Haroun and other leaders of the defunct Al Bashir regime, with the knowledge of the state governor and other officials,” he explained.

El Gedaref activists told Radio Dabanga said that the emergency order banning gatherings issued by the state governor on Tuesday “falls within the framework of restricting activities against members of the defunct regime”. The decision was issued “after we organised three protests against the activities that included calls on our youth to join the army”.

Arrest warrants

In Kassala, the public prosecution canceled arrest warrants against Ali Osman Taha, Ahmed Harun, and three other former Islamist leaders of the Al Bashir regime (1989-2019) who have sought refuge in the state since their escape from Kober Prison in Khartoum North in end April.

The prosecutor justified the decision by referring to “the lack of legal justifications for opening a criminal case, as requested by the People’s Committee Against War”.

Political groups had welcomed the arrest warrants “issued pursuant to requests submitted by a group of civil society organisations, political forces, and lawyers”. The warrants were “based on the charges under which these leaders of the former regime were imprisoned for more than two years,” lawyer Rehab El Mubarak told Radio Dabanga in early August.

Osama Saeed, head of the Beja Congress, however, already doubted if Kassala state’s security committee would keep the fugitives in police custody.

“Or is the prosecution playing a role in a poorly directed play?” he tweeted earlier this week.

The United Popular Front for Liberation and Justice led by El Amin Daoud condemned “the actions of the leaders of the dissolved National Congress Party (NCP) of Al Bashir following the outbreak of the war on April 15”.

In a statement on Tuesday, the front denounced “the exploitation of the current war to infiltrate the country’s political life”.

‘Tribal lines’

On Tuesday, the El Rashaida in eastern Sudan announced the enrollment of 1,000 of its young tribesmen in military training camps of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).

The acting governor of Kassala, Khojali Hamed, welcomed “their impartial stand with the armed forces and crucial national issues”.

The forces of the Eastern Sudan Movements Coalition, led by Sheiba Dirar, organised a parade in Port Sudan on Tuesday. In his address to his combatants, Dirar launched an attack “on the ministers and officials of the rebel movements that signed the Juba Peace Agreement because they do not stand with the armed forces”.

In July, Radio Dabanga reported that the Sudanese army opened new military training camps in River Nile state and Kassala in which volunteers receive basic military training. Journalist Fatima El Ghazali expressed her concerns about recruitment efforts happening along tribal lines.

Al Bashir affiliates

A report by Mohammed Amin issued by Middle East Eye (MEE) on Monday stated that “The influence of prominent figures linked to the administration of former autocrat Omar al-Bashir and movements connected to it has been growing in Sudan, as the country’s civilian actors take different positions in the war.”

Both the SAF and the RSF have been courting “different civilian groups, while those same political movements are also looking to exert control over the warring parties. 

“Sudanese politicians connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, the transnational political Islamic movement, and senior figures from Al Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) have lined up behind the Sudanese army,” Amin explained. “Leaders of the pro-democracy Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition, meanwhile, have been accused of standing with the RSF, which since October 2022 has self-consciously positioned itself as a champion of democracy in its public messaging. [..]

“Each side is fighting a messaging war, seeking to establish its version of events as the truth. The alleged presence of figures from the Sudanese Islamic movement within the army’s ranks has been a key feature of RSF propaganda” while the army has been tied to the deep state of Al Bashir.

Amin further pointed to the stances of the mainstream Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC-Central Council) that in August 2019 agreed with the military junta (SAF and RSF) on a new, civilian-led government.  

“The FFC has established a “civic front” to campaign for the ending of the war, but sources in the resistance committees said there were signs the FFC is backing the RSF, as the mainstream civilian coalition is not clearly condemning the paramilitary’s violations – or at least drawing an equivalence between both sides,” a resistance committee leader told MEE.

“What they [the FFC leaders] are doing is supporting the RSF through the political deal, so this will legitimise the RSF and the counter-revolution powers,” he explained.

“This is not a new attitude from the Sudanese political parties. There have been many uprisings in Sudanese history and political parties end up allying with the armed forces to cut off the revolution.”