World
Sudan frees jailed opposition leaderPublish Date: Jun 16, 2014
Sudan frees jailed opposition leader
  • mail
  • img
After his arrest, Mahdis party pulled out of talks with the ruling National Congress and other parties aimed at resolving the multiple crises gripping the impoverished, war-torn country. AFP Photo
newvision

SUDAN'S former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi was released from custody on Sunday, one month after state security agents detained him in a case that sparked concern from Western governments.

An AFP reporter saw a smiling Mahdi, chief of the opposition Umma party, greeting about 200 noisy supporters at his headquarters in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman.

Minutes earlier State Minister of Information Yassir Yousef told AFP that Mahdi "has been released".

The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) arrested Mahdi on May 17 after he reportedly accused the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of rape and other abuses of civilians in western Sudan's Darfur region.

The RSF, whose commanders denied that their unit had raped, looted or committed arson, is under the authority of NISS.

Mahdi was charged with treason-related offences which can bring a death sentence upon conviction, but the status of those charges was not immediately clear on Sunday.

Yousef said Mahdi was freed after his legal team appealed to the justice minister to exercise his authority to drop or suspend charges.

After his arrest, Mahdi's party pulled out of talks with the ruling National Congress and other parties aimed at resolving the multiple crises gripping the impoverished, war-torn country.

In brief comments to supporters after his release, Mahdi did not specifically say whether Umma would rejoin the national dialogue.

He said that after further talks with a cross-section of Sudanese who have united behind him over the RSF incident, "I will respond as to what we are going to do."

Mahdi spoke after women ululated in welcome and other supporters shouted that he is "the voice of the people".

President Omar al-Bashir appealed in January for dialogue and hinted at greater freedoms.

Media repressed: watchdog

After that, a tenuous political opening occurred as parties rallied without interference from security forces, and reports on alleged official corruption flourished in local newspapers.

But analysts said that, even if Bashir is serious about reform, his party is divided and the powerful security service is opposed.

About one week after Mahdi's arrest, prosecutors banned journalists from reporting on the case.

A watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, warned of authorities' "increasingly repressive attitude to the media", despite government talk of greater freedoms.

The United States and British embassies had expressed "deep concern" over Mahdi's arrest, while the European Union delegation in Khartoum called on all sides to back the national dialogue and to "abstain from acts and statements that might derail the process".

In early June, riot police broke up a protest by hundreds of youths demanding Mahdi's release and calling for the overthrow of the Islamist regime which took power in a coup that toppled Mahdi's government 25 years ago.

At another protest on Friday, four of Mahdi's daughters were detained as they demanded freedom for political prisoners. They were later released.

Mahdi, a political fixture since the 1960s, is now regarded with suspicion by many Sudanese, partly because one of his sons is a Bashir adviser and another is a relatively junior NISS officer.

Sadiq al-Mahdi is, however, also a religious leader revered by followers in his Ansar al-Islam movement, a key component of Umma.

Sadiq is a descendant of Sudan's legendary Islamic reformer known as the "Mahdi".

Earlier Sunday, a group of prominent Sudanese, including former presidential candidate Kamal Idris, told reporters they had been mediating between Mahdi and the government.

They predicted the Umma chief's release was imminent, and said they would continue their mediation in an attempt to win freedom for other detainees including Sudanese Congress Party chief Ibrahim al-Sheikh.

Sheikh was arrested on June 8 after a rally at which he, like Mahdi, criticised the actions of the RSF, according to a Sudanese Congress Party official.

AFP

Related stories

Sudan to 'deploy' controversial military unit around Khartoum

Sudan rebels launch 'big offensive' in Kordofan

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Hundreds of thousands need food aid in Somali capital: UN
Over 350,000 people in Somalia's war-ravaged capital are in acute need of food aid as government and charities struggle to cope, the UN warned Saturday, with other cities also in crisis....
Obama, Central American leaders meet on child migrants
President Barack Obama meets Friday with three Central American leaders to try to get control of an humanitarian crisis triggered by a tide of child migrants crossing the southern US border....
More than 50 UK Catholic priests defrocked for sex abuse
More than 50 Roman Catholic priests in England and Wales have been defrocked for sex abuse since 2001, the Church's child protection watchdog revealed...
West Africa Ebola death toll
The death toll in West Africa's Ebola outbreak has risen to 660, with the number of cases surpassing 1,000, says WHO....
First images emerge of Air Algerie crash site
The first images of the Air Algerie crash site in Mali emerged Friday, showing a stark terrain littered with bits of a plane that appears to have been pulverised on impact....
Tourist shot dead in Kenya was German
KENYAN police said Friday a female tourist shot dead in the coastal city of Mombasa was from Germany, the second such killing of a foreign visitor by gunmen there this month...
Should government review powers of kings?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter