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Sudan bread protests: Political leaders still held incommunicado, journalists released

January 22 - 2018 KHARTOUM
Protest against the austerity measures and the soaring prices, Omdurman, Jan. 17, 2018 (RD)
Protest against the austerity measures and the soaring prices, Omdurman, Jan. 17, 2018 (RD)

Leading members of the Communist Party of Sudan and the National Umma Party are still being held by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Their whereabouts are unknown. Reportedly more than 400 political activists are currently detained in the country. A number of journalists held in Sudan’s capital were released on Sunday.

Spokesman for the Communist Party of Sudan (CPoS) Fathi Fadul reported to Radio Dabanga from Khartoum on Sunday that the security apparatus refuses to disclose the location where nine members of the party’s Political Bureau are held.

“Relatives are not allowed to contact them or deliver medicines,” he said. “We are in particular worried about the health of Mohamed El Khateeb and Siddig Yousef as they suffer from chronic diseases and need to take their medicines daily.”

On Tuesday, the CPoS organised a mass rally in the Sudanese capital in protest against the economic policies of the government. The recent austerity measures implemented in the first week of January led to the doubling, and in some cases, the tripling of prices of basic consumer goods. Prices of wheat increased with 233 per cent.

Dozens of journalists, political parties’ leaders, members of civil society organisations, employees, workers, youth, and students participated in the 'bread protest' that was dispersed by police and security forces using excessive force.

NISS agents detained most of the organisers on Wednesday. The following day, Mohamed Mukhtar El Khateeb, Political Secretary, and Hanadi El Fadul, member of the Political Bureau, were held.

According to Fadul, more than 400 members of other political forces are currently being held in various parts of the country.

The opposition have formed a follow-up committee to defend 50 activists charged with Public Nuisance, the CPoS spokesman said. “About 40 of them have been released on bail. Ten remain in police custody, including journalist Kamal Karar, a member of the party's Central Committee,” he added.

Personal items’

The families of leading members of the National Umma Party (NUP) have not been allowed as well to visit their detained relatives.

Yet, security officers in Omdurman allowed them, after some reservations, to deliver some personal items such as clothing and medicines for the detainees, Mohamed El Mahdi Hasan, Head of the party's Political Bureau told this station on Saturday.

“Nine party leaders are still in detention including NUP Co-Vice-President and chairman of the Darfur Bar Association Mohamed Abdallah El Doma, Political Secretary Sara Nugdallah, and leading member Ibrahim El Amin,” he reported.

“Their relatives will be allowed to visit them after 15 days, which is the period set in the 2010 National Security Act.”

According to Hasan, about 150 NUP members are being held by the NISS. They were detained in Omdurman on Wednesday, when they staged a demonstration against the skyrocketing prices in the country and called for the removal of the current regime, in spite of attempts by the security apparatus to prevent it.

He said that most of the protesters are held in police custody and have been charged with Public Nuisance, while the party’s leaders are being held incommunicado by the NISS.

Released

Of the 15 journalists and correspondents who were held while covering the demonstrations in Khartoum and Omdurman on Tuesday and Wednesday, seven were released last week already.

On Sunday, the security apparatus released three other journalists, including Imtinan El Radi of the Sudanese El Youm El Tali, Majdi El Agab of El Watan, and Rashan Oshi of El Mihjar El Siyasi newspaper.

Journalist and feminist Amal Habani of El Taghyeer news website and Kamal Karar, editor of El Midan, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, are still being held.

Condemnations

The clampdown of the press in Sudan has been sharply criticised. In addition to statements of media and human rights organisations, the US State Department expressed its “deep concern about freedom of expression, the closing of political space for all Sudanese, and Sudan’s poor overall human rights record”.

Prior to the implementation of the austerity measures in the first week of January, NISS officers issued strict instructions to the newspapers in the country not to cover the price hikes and possible protests.

Journalists involved in the coverage of the Omdurman protest this week told this station that they were threatened with detention in case they would photograph the demonstrations.

 


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