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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

Sudan arrests deputy head of opposition in latest protest crackdown

Activists say at least 57 people have been killed in the protests since December

A burning tire blocks the road during an anti-government demonstration in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman on March 10, 2019. AFP
A burning tire blocks the road during an anti-government demonstration in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman on March 10, 2019. AFP

The deputy head of Sudan's opposition Umma Party was sentenced to a week in prison on Sunday for demonstrating against the president, a party official and a lawyer said, as activists protested against emergency laws imposed last month.

Mariam Sadiq Al Mahdi, the daughter of Umma leader and former prime minister Sadiq Al Mahdi, was among a group of 16 detained while demonstrating in front of Umma's headquarters in Omdurman, across the Nile from the centre of the capital city of Khartoum, said defence lawyer Khalafallah Hussein.

The court also fined her 2,000 Sudanese pounds (Dh 150) for participating in the protest, which called on President Omar Al Bashir to step down, said Mohamed Al Mahdi Hassan, head of the party's political bureau.

Another of Sadiq Al-Mahdi's daughters, Rabah, was also arrested and fined 500 pounds, according to Hussein.

Mr Al Bashir declared a state of emergency last month after weeks of demonstrations, the most sustained challenge to his rule since he came to power in the coup that overthrew Sadiq Al Mahdi in 1989.

On Sunday afternoon, hundreds took to the streets in different areas of Omdurman to protest against the emergency laws. Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse them.

The measures include an expansion of powers for the security services and a ban on unlicensed public gatherings. More than 800 people have been tried in the emergency courts, according to the Democratic Alliance of Lawyers, an opposition group.

On Saturday, nine female Sudanese protesters were sentenced to 20 lashes and one month in prison for rioting, the alliance said.

Sarah Abdel-Jaleel, a spokeswoman for the Sudanese Professionals Association - an umbrella organization that has been spearheading the anti-government protests across Sudan- said the rulings against the women were part of "a series of arbitrary sentences against peaceful protesters" by emergency courts in the past week.

The nine women were arrested just hours earlier on Saturday, a day after al-Bashir ordered that all women detained in the protests be released to mark International Women's Day, March 8.

Mariam Sadiq Al Mahdi was briefly arrested at the end of January in connection with the protests.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman to denounce the emergency laws, the Sudanese Professionals Association said.

Footage circulated by activists online showed protesters marching and chanting "the people want the fall of the regime".

The footage also showed clashes between protesters and security forces in Khartoum's old district of Burri. Protesters hurled stones at the police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, according to activists, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Sudan has been rocked by a wave of unrest since December, initially over price hikes and shortages of food and fuel, but the demonstrations quickly morphed into calls for the overthrow of Mr Al Bashir.

Activists say at least 57 people have been killed in the protests. The government's latest tally stands at 30 killed, but those figures have not been updated in days.

Mr Al Bashir, who seized power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989, insists that only elections, which he intends to take part in, will result in change. Wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court over the fighting in Darfur, he has repeatedly warned that the protests could plunge Sudan into the kind of chaos convulsing other countries in the region.

Updated: March 11, 2019 09:52 PM

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