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Sudan: 29 officers sentenced to death for fatally torturing teacher

Verdict is about accountability after the uprising, not revenge, brother of slain teacher Ahmed al-Khair says
Sudanese protesters from the city of Kassala arrive to demonstration in Khartoum, 27 April (AFP/File photo)
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Sudanese activists celebrated on Monday the sentencing of 29 intelligence agents to death over the killing of a teacher in detention early this year during protests that led to the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir.

Investigation showed that Ahmed al-Khair was beaten and tortured to death after his arrest in late January by intelligence forces in Kassala state in eastern Sudan, the judge of Omdurman court said.

“Medical reports have proved that the teacher has been tortured, and different witness accounts also proved that the personnel have intentionally tortured and killed Khair,” said Al-Sadiq al-Fakih.

Hundreds of people had gathered in front of the court, calling for holding the killers of protesters accountable. 

Many of the demonstrators had come from Khashm al-Qirba, the teacher's town in the Kassala state, and camped around the courthouse on Sunday night.

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The judge listed 27 agents from Kassala city, and two from Khashm al-Qirba, who received death sentences.

Four defendants were sentenced to prison terms and another seven were acquitted.

Al-Tybe Kabson, one of the witnesses at the trial, told MEE that the prison personnel had ceaselessly tortured the detainees throughout the day on 1 February and repeatedly threatened them with rape.

He said the security personnel had attempted to take off the detainees’ pants by force but the prisoners were able to stave them off even after hours of torture.

But Khair had collapsed and was taken to another room, from which loud screams were heard. Other detainees said the security forces sexually assaulted the teacher.

'It’s not about revenge. It would be an example of justice – a message that no one can commit brutal crimes in the future without retribution'

- Saad, Ahmed al-Khair's brother

“Around 10 minutes later, they brought back teacher Ahmed in a horrifying condition and we saw blood on his back”.

Kabson said Khair died while armed soldiers were transporting the detainees to Kassala city.

“When I noticed he stopped breathing, I started shouting Mr Ahmed has died please stop the car, but they ignored me at first,” Kabson said.

“But when I kept shouting, they stopped the car and the officer came and checked him. He immediately gave orders to separate him from us. That was the last moment I saw Mr Ahmed.”

'Our dignity'

It is the first time that members of the security forces have been condemned to death in relation to the killing of Sudanese demonstrators who first took to the streets a year ago.

Outside the court, Khair’s brother, Saad, said his family was happy with the verdict.

“We believe our dignity as Sudanese people is part of this court's decision”, Saad told MEE.

After the ruling, the judge asked the family if they wanted to pardon Ahmed’s killers, but they refused.

“It’s not about revenge,” Saad said as he wiped his tears.

“It would be an example of justice – a message that no one can commit brutal crimes in the future without retribution.”

Dozens of protesters were killed during the crackdown on the protests against Bashir, who was toppled in April.

Security forces in Khartoum also killed dozens more when they cleared a sit-in pushing for further change in June. 

The Sudanese Professional Association (SPA) that led the protests in Sudan since December 2018 said the trial was one of the steps towards building a new Sudan that respects the rule of law.

“The conviction today is a victory for the human conscience. It is a lesson to the old regime and the fascists that justice will come in the end,” the SPA said in a statement.

“We believe it is not a moment of revenge but a moment that would open a new era of fairness to our people.”

A special day for Justice

Thousands of people in different parts of the country celebrated the court’s ruling on Monday, hailing it as a historical moment of justice and the rule of law in Sudan. 

Celebrations took place in Khair’s hometown of Khashm al-Qirba, the nearby cities of Kassala, Medani, Gadaref and Port Sudan.

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“This moment is historical because we are all standing together as Sudanese to attain justice”, Mariam Ahmed from the Abasiya neighbourhood in Omdurman told Middle East Eye.

“Here in Abasiya we have hosted in our houses our brothers who came from Khashm Al-Qirba to attend the court session. We have all become a family because the martyrs are our brothers, fathers and sons.”

Meanwhile hundreds gathered in the marketplace of Kassala city as they waited for the verdict.

Protester Al-Numan Ahmed said the entire city celebrated the ruling.

“We felt ashamed that some of the security personnel who committed this crime are from our city, but we are satisfied now because justice has been served,” Ahmed told MEE.