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Sudanese authorities hold journalist incommunicado

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Oct 4, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — A Sudanese journalist specializing in the war-torn Darfur region has been held incommunicado for five days without charge, journalists said on Wednesday.

Abu Obeida Aballah covered the Darfur peace talks in Nigeria, forging contacts with many rebels there.

Since a May peace deal, signed by only one of three negotiating rebel groups, violence has escalated with a dozen aid workers killed and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes.

"This is the fifth day he is in detention," said Kamal Hassan Bakhiet, the editor in chief of the pro-government al-Rai al-Aam daily where Abdallah works.

But he said the arrest was not related to media freedom, under attack by a wave of heavy censorship in recent weeks.

Bakhiet said state security had told him Abdallah was being held as part of a wider investigation into the brutal killing of a Sudanese journalist last month.

Bakhiet said Abdallah may have had telephone contact with someone state security suspected of being involved in Mohamed Taha’s gruesome beheading in Khartoum.

"I expect he will be release within the coming two days," he added.

Neither Abdallah’s colleagues nor his family have had contact with him.

State security sources said he was being held by the political section but it was not clear what for. One source said it had no relation to Taha’s death but was likely to be related to Darfur.

The Reporters Without Borders rights group said it had asked the Sudanese authorities to justify the detention, adding that if it was because of his journalistic work he should be released immediately.

"If he is being held for other reasons we demand that they be made public and that his right to impartial proceedings be respected," said the statement, issued late on Tuesday.

The arrest follows the reintroduction of heavy censorship of mainly independent newspapers after Taha’s death. Al-Rai al-Am has not been censored, Bakhiet said.

(Reuters)

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