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Supporters of Sudan's ousted president accuse authorities of discrimination

Protesters in Khartoum call on authorities to free or bring to trial members of former government detained since April
The protesters carried banners describing the detention of their relatives as illegal and unconstitutional (MEE/Mohammed Amin)
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Khartoum

Hundreds of supporters of Omar al-Bashir gathered in central Khartoum on Wednesday, calling for justice for the ousted Sudanese president and other former officials in his government, in the first pro-Bashir demonstration since his overthrow in April. 

Protesters gathered in the capital's University Street pleaded the case for 23 senior officials, all members of Islamist parties which supported Bashir, who have been arrested since Bashir's fall, saying they should be freed or brought to trial.

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In stark contrast to their role when Bashir was in power, those who organised Wednesday's protests have now taken on the role previously occupied by the opposition.

Comprising mainly relatives of senior officials of the former government, including Bashir's extended family, the protesters carried banners describing the detention of their relatives as illegal and unconstitutional and calling for justice.

The demonstrators also denounced calls by pro-democracy protesters to hand Bashir over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where he faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in a counter-insurgency in the Darfur region beginning in 2003. 

Not guilty

Bashir, who was indicted by the ICC in 2009, is now facing trial in a corruption case after he was charged with illegally possessing millions in foreign and domestic currency, which was found stockpiled at his home after he was arrested. 

The court is set to return a verdict in the case next month.

Mohamed Ali, a member of Bashir's defence team, told MEE during the demonstration that the former leader was innocent and not guilty of any human rights violations.

Ali said that all the accusations about the Darfur war had been fabricated by "the internal and international enemies" of Bashir.

He added that his client has never committed corruption or violations against the Sudanese people and that the defence team were confident of his acquittal. 

“We are confident that Bashir is not guilty and he should be acquitted from these charges according to the evidence and testimonies we presented in front of the court,” he said. 

Petition submitted

Shaza Mamoun is a spokeswoman for the families of those detained and the daughter of Mamoun Humeda, the former minister of health in Khartoum state who has been detained since April. She told MEE that they had submitted a petition to the general prosecutor, calling for those detained to be presented to the court or released in accordance with the law. 

“Our fathers and relatives are now in jail for around seven months without specific charges and the authorities don’t want to release them,” she added. 

Bashir's nephew Ahmed said his father Abdullah had been in prison without charge for seven months (MEE/Mohammed Amin)
Bashir's nephew Ahmed said his father Abdullah had been in prison without charge for seven months (MEE/Mohammed Amin)

Ahmed Abdallah al-Bashir, the son of Bashir's brother Abdullah, who was detained earlier this year, told MEE that his father had been in prison without charge for seven months and called for his immediate release. 

“My father is in prison only because he is the brother of the president, without committing any illegal doings in the entire past period,” he said.

Ahmed Bashir said that the petition they had made was to be considered by the general attorney, as stated in the constitutional declaration ruling the transitional period.

“What we see now is that the government of the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), which argued that there were violations against freedoms during Bashir’s time, are now doing the same practices by imposing the state of emergency and detaining people without charges,” he said.

The opposition FFC signed a power-sharing deal with Sudan's Transitional Military Council in July.

High-profile arrest

On Wednesday, the announcement that Sudanese authorities had arrested Ali al-Haj, the secretary-general of the Islamic Popular Congress Party (PCP), sparked widespread anger among supporters of the party. 

Sudan's attorney general has formed an investigation committee into the military coup carried out by Bashir with the backing of Islamists on 30 June 1989.

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A senior official, who declined to be named, told Reuters news agency that Haj had reported to investigators on Wednesday after the public prosecution summoned him for questioning over the coup

He was then arrested and transferred to Khartoum's Kobar prison, where Bashir is also being held.

Idris Suleiman, the PCP's political secretary, told Reuters: "Ali al-Haj is a political leader and not a military man to be charged over the 1989 coup and he was abroad when that coup happened."

In a statement made available to MEE, the PCP said: “This step is very provocative and is considered to be an expression of vengeful attitude against our leaders without any constitutional right or fairness.

“The government of the FFC wants to draw attention away from its clear failure in achieving peace and easing the economic hardship of our people by sparking this escalation by arresting our leaders, including the secretary general.”  

'Targeting' of Islamists

Muhanad al-Sheikh, a leading member of the former ruling National Congress Party - now banned - called for the release of all of the detainees and the lifting of the state of emergency. 

Sheikh, who is also a member of the committee supporting the detainees, claimed that the current government is targeting Islamists everywhere, but vowed that they would resist by all peaceful means. 

He further stated that all the those detained had been arrested due to their political identity, and that this clear targeting of Islamists was against the constitution, justice and the law.

“Why do they just arrest the Islamists who participated in the past regime, why don’t they arrest former opposition leaders who participated in the former regime, including some of those who are leading members in the FFC?” said Sheikh.

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“The Islamists were used to facing such hard times and unfairness and will never back track or abandon their commitments and principles.”

Rule of law

However, FFC spokesman Wagdi Salih told MEE that there was no targeting of Islamists, although the new government were committed to act against leaders and symbols of the former regime who had committed crimes against the Sudanese people. 

Salih said that Islamic leaders who had been detained were facing serious accusations of involvement in the 1989 coup against Sudan's democratic government. 

“For sure, anyone has the right to be presented to the court and has the right to express himself peacefully, but the principles of the rule of law are supposed to be implemented for everyone... this is very important for us, and it's one of the slogans of the revolution as well,” he said. 

“Those leaders are not in prison because of their political affiliation, they are in jail because they are accused of committing crimes, including undermining the democratic system," Salih added. "That is a serious accusation, so they are under investigation now and can’t be released.”