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Sudan: Two prominent critics of ruling military arrested

Arrests will affect UN process, says Yasser Arman of the Forces for Freedom and Change
Protesters take part in a march against military rule in Khartoum on 7 February 2022 (Reuters)

Two prominent Sudanese political figures holding senior positions in the civilian administration before the military coup in October were arrested on Wednesday.

Khaled Omar Youssef, a former minister of cabinet affairs, was arrested by plainclothes officers during a meeting of the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) bloc at the headquarters of the Sudanese Congress Party, senior member Mohamed Hassan Arabi said. 

Wagdi Saleh, a leading figure of the protest movement and an FFC spokesman, was also arrested, according to FFC leader Omar al-Degeir. 

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Saleh and Youssef were previously involved in a task force that seized property and fired bureaucrats linked to the regime of Omar al-Bashir, who fell in a 2019 popular uprising, Reuters reported. Both men were arrested immediately after the October coup, but were soon released.

The reason for their arrests on Wednesday remains unconfirmed, but sources from Youssef’s Sudanese Congress Party said he was taken to the North Khartoum police station. According to Saleh's Twitter account, he was taken to the same police station before being transferred to Omdurman Prison, along with another member of the task force, and was under investigation regarding a "breach of trust", Reuters reported. 

Meeting the UN representative

The arrests come a day after the two men joined an FFC delegation for talks with UN Special Representative Volker Perthes, as part of efforts launched last month aimed at resolving the deepening crisis, AFP reported. According to leading FFC figure Yasser Arman the latest arrests "will affect the UN process".

The US, which suspended $700 million of assistance following the coup, has warned that a continued crackdown by the authorities would have "consequences", AFP reported. Just earlier this month, US lawmakers also pressed the administration of Joe Biden to impose personal sanctions on the military leaders of the 25 October coup, MEE reported. 

"Security forces continue to attack civilians, arrest civil society actors and engage in sexual violence with impunity," Robert Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said at this month's hearing.

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"Why hasn't the administration imposed personal, targeted sanctions on those responsible for impeding Sudan's democratic process and perpetuating human rights abuses?" he asked.


According to Samir Sheikh Idris, a spokesperson for an activist lawyers' group, about 105 people were being held without charge across Sudan over their alleged political activity, with many of them being members of local resistance committees detained in Khartoum's Soba prison, Reuters reported. 

Since the coup, about 2,000 people have been arrested, Idris said, and authorities have launched a deadly crackdown on anti-coup protests using tear gas and gunfire, leaving at least 79 people killed and hundreds wounded, according to independent medics. The military and the police have said peaceful protests are allowed and casualties are being investigated. 

The BBC announced that three of its reporters were arrested on Monday while covering anti-coup protests in Khartoum, where thousands marched against military rule. The journalists were soon released.

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