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Hasan El Turabi dies of heart attack in Sudanese capital

March 6 - 2016 KHARTOUM
Dr Hasan El Turabi (Suna)
Dr Hasan El Turabi (Suna)

Dr Hasan El Turabi, the Sudanese opposition leader who helped bring President Omar Al Bashir to power, died at the age of 84 in Khartoum on Saturday.

In a brief statement on Saturday, the Secretariat of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) said that its chairman became unwell at around 11 am at the PCP’s headquarters. He was immediately taken to the Royal Care Hospital, where he passed away not much later.

El Turabi was a key ally of Al Bashir when he took power in a coup in 1989, but they fell out a decade later. His death was announced by state TV, which described him as a “well-known Islamic thinker, and was confirmed by his party.

For the first decade of Al Bashir's rule, El Turabi was the de facto leader of the country, and his influence spread beyond Sudan's borders. He promoted a radical version of Islamism, with the Islamic law (Sharia) applied strictly. Osama bin Laden accepted an invitation to live in Sudan, and the civil war against the largely non-Muslim southern Sudanese was intensified. The Sudanese security apparatus was accused of numerous human rights abuses against dissidents, and large numbers of Sudanese fled the country.

In 1999, a year after he was elected secretary-general of the National Congress Party (NCP), El Turabi lost a power struggle with President Al Bashir. He founded the opposition PCP in 2001, but spent much of the next decade in detention.

About 15 years later, in March 2014, the two men had their first public meeting in years, with El Turabi visiting Al Bashir at his guest house.

Born in Kassala in eastern Sudan, the son of a local imam, El Turabi moved to Khartoum to study law before completing his studies in London and Paris. He joined Sudan's Muslim Brotherhood and rose to national prominence in the 1964 intifada which overthrew General Ibrahim Abboud.

In his later years, El Turabi advocated the rights of women and democracy within Islam, and saw himself as a moderate reformer. 

He was one of the most divisive figures in the country's turbulent history, says BBC's former Sudan correspondent James Copnall. He presided over perhaps the most brutal period in Sudan.

(BBC, Radio Dabanga)

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