Home | News    Thursday 1 April 2004

Turabi charged with damaging Sudan’s security, Islamist party shut down

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By Mohamed Ali Saeed

KHARTOUM, April 1 (AFP) — Sudanese authorities charged Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi with damaging the country’s security and suspended the activities of his party, officials and newspapers said.

Interior Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Husseinin told the independent Al-Sahafa daily that Turabi would stand trial on charges of "instigating tribal and regional sedition and harming security."

Under Sudan’s penal code, Turabi, 72, who was arrested at his home early Wednesday, could face up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

A former leading light of President Omar al-Beshir’s regime, Turabi was freed in October 2003 after spending nearly three years under house arrest.

Turabi’s deputy Abdallah Hassan Ahmad said he had been informed of the decision to suspend the activities of the Popular Congress (PC) party after its offices were shut down earlier in the day.

"This suspension will be effective until the courts examine the case of leadership of this party," he said.

The head of Turabi’s offices, Awad Babikir, earlier told AFP that police shut the party’s headquarters in Khartoum, as well as most of its branches across Sudan.

At least one party activist was also arrested Thursday, bringing to 14 the number of PC members known to have been arrested in three days.

Husseinin played down the controversy stirred by the arrest of Turabi and army officers thought to belong to his PC. "This does not impair the stability of the country," he insisted.

Information Minister Al-Zahaw Ibrahim Malik said Wednesday that Turabi was arrested for making statements in which he "incited regionalist and tribalist tendencies" against the government.

The move followed the arrest Sunday of a number of army officers on suspicion of involvement in a military coup attempt apparently related to the ongoing conflict in the western Darfur region.

The PC on Monday reported a government crackdown on senior party officials following allegations of a coup attempt from within the army.

The authorities then launched a wave of arrests against party officials and axed or transferred a raft of officers in the army, police and security services who originated from Darfur, the Islamist group added in a statement.

The PC spoke of 27 army officers arrested, all from the western provinces of Darfur and Kordofan. But Malik only confirmed the arrest of 10 army officers, including a colonel, and seven PC members.

He said these officers had been kept under surveillance since 2002 and were "planning, in coordination with the Popular Congress, acts of subversion".

Turabi himself told AFP on Tuesday that the government has accused his party of supporting the year-old rebel movement among Darfur’s indigenous non-Arab minorities.

Turabi denied the government allegation, although he has criticised government policy in the region.

Indirect negotiations began Wednesday in neighbouring Chad between the government and the Darfur’s rebel Sudan Liberation Movement and Movement for Justice and Equality.

UN officials have branded the Darfur war as currently the "world’s greatest humanitarian and human rights catastrophe". It erupted in February 2003, amid protests from rebels that their region has been marginalised.

The UN humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, blamed most of the atrocities, which include systematic murders and rape, on pro-government militia groups fighting the rebels.

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