Sudanese authorities released four members of the suspended Empowerment Removal Committee (ERC)* from Soba prison in Khartoum yesterday, including Zakariah Hamza, who was detained for three months.
This follows a pledge last week by the head of the ruling junta, Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, to review the State of Emergency, and release political detainees ‘within days’, to prepare the atmosphere for dialogue. 25 leaders of the Resistance Committees who were detained during the protests against the military coup, were released at the weekend.
Their release was confirmed by lawyer Rehab Mubarak, a member of the defence team, in an interview with the Sudan Today programme on Radio Dabanga.
She said that the defence team has filed applications with the Court for the remaining members of the committee who are in detention, to be released on bail pending their investigation. The Judge of the Khartoum Criminal Court refused to renew their detention, and explained that in the absence of evidence, there is no reason for them to remain in prison while the investigation is completed.
On February 9, authorities detained three members of Sudan’s ERC, following a breach of trust reported against them by the Ministry of Finance. The ERC leader, Wajdi Saleh, an outspoken voice and supporter of the dismantlement of the ousted Al Bashir regime, was detained alongside former Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Khaled Omar Yousef. Also, among the detained was the Secretary General of the ERC, Tayeb Osman Yousef.
This was followed of February 13 with the detention of Mohamed El Faki, a former member of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, and the alternate head of the ERC, as well as Maj Awad Karendis, another member of the ERC. Taha Osman Ishag was held by a joint force of police and security agents in central Khartoum on February 19, while Babakir Feisal, member of the ERC, member of the Executive Office of the Forces for Freedom and Change and President of the Executive Office of the Federal Assembly, was detained in March.
The campaign of detentions prompted a chorus of condemnation locally and internationally. A joint statement by the Sudan Troika (Norway, the United Kingdom, and the USA), Canada, Switzerland, and the European Union) following the February 9 arrests pointed out that “these troubling actions are part of a recent pattern of arrests and detentions of civil society activists, journalists, and humanitarian workers occurring throughout Sudan these last weeks.
“We condemn this harassment and intimidation on the part of Sudan’s military authorities. This is wholly inconsistent with their stated commitment to participate constructively in a facilitated process to resolve Sudan’s political crisis to return to a democratic transition.”
In the statement, the signatory countries call for “an immediate end to such practices and for the immediate release of all those unjustly detained”.
Relatives of detained members of the ERC organised a protest sit-in in front of the Public Prosecution in Khartoum on March 1 to demand their immediate release.
* The full name of the committee is the Committee for Dismantling the June 30 1989 Regime, Removal of Empowerment and Corruption, and Recovering Public Funds. It was established by the government of Abdallah Hamdok at the end of 2019 with the aim to purge Sudan of the remnants of the Al Bashir regime. Empowerment (tamkin) is the term with which the ousted government of Omar Al Bashir supported its affiliates by granting them far-going privileges, including government functions, the setting-up of various companies, and tax exemptions.