Editors of El Tayar, El Sayha held by Sudan security

On Wednesday evening, security agents detained Osman Mirghani, the editor-in-chief of El Tayar daily, a day after the newspaper was suspended…

On Wednesday evening, agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) detained the editor-in-chief of El Tayar daily, Osman Mirghani, a day after the newspaper was suspended. The editor-in-chief of El Sayha was held too.

At 7.30 pm, a few hours after the editor-in-chief and the newspaper’s legal adviser Nabil Adib gave a press conference in down-town Khartoum, members of the State Security Prosecution Forces stormed El Tayar’s office, an El Tayar correspondent told Radio Dabanga.

They briefly detained Mirghani and Ahmed Yousef El Tai, editor-in-chief of El Sayha daily newspaper. They were released under guarantee, confined to their place of residence.

On Monday, security agents confiscated the entire print-run of El Tayar. The following day, an NISS officer informed the editor by phone that the newspaper was suspended for an indefinite period of time. The reasons would be “explained later”.

Mirghani told Radio Dabanga on Tuesday that the suspension was triggered by his editorials in which he sharply criticised the Finance Minister’s proposal to lift subsidies on basic commodities early next year.

In a press conference held in Khartoum on Wednesday afternoon, Mirghani said that he is determined to follow all possible legal procedures to lift the new ban on his newspaper.

“Article 24 of the Constitutional Court Law prohibits resorting to any other law after the Constitutional Court decided against its use,” the newspaper's legal adviser Nabil Adib said. “The NISS repeated its suspension of El Tayar in clear defiance of the Law and the Court.”

The lawyer submitted a claim for the protection of the newspaper’s constitutional right to the Constitutional Court that morning. He would use the Court’s earlier ruling about the unconstitutionality of the suspension as a precedent.

In June 2012, the NISS indefinitely suspended El Tayar. The newspaper resumed publication two years later, after the Constitutional Court ruled that the NISS does not have the power to suspend newspapers.

Hamza Combat Group

On 19 July last year, Mirghani was attacked by a group of armed and masked men in the newspaper’s office in down-town Khartoum. They assaulted the staff and beat the editor-in-chief senseless with Kalashnikovs, iron bars, and batons. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.

An unknown group, styling themselves the Hamza Combat Group Against Atheism and Heresy, claimed responsibility for the attack. They said would attack anyone who is “openly hostile to the Palestinian resistance”, according to a statement distributed in Khartoum the following day.

The week before, Mirghani defended the idea of normalising relations with Israel in a Sudanese TV talk show. He had also written a column on the issue in the newspaper.

After his recovery, he told Radio Dabanga that he did not believe the Hamza Group existed. “It is an illusionary group, fabricated in an attempt to hide the real ones responsible. We all know which bodies carry arms in Sudan. Apart from batons and iron bars, the assailants carried automatic weapons. The origin of these heavy weapons can be easily identified.”

The editor-in-chief denied that the reason behind the assault was his call for normalisation of relations with Israel. “The reasons are most likely to be found in El Tayar’s exposure of the widespread corruption within government institutions.”