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Sudanese security services release four jailed journalists

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June 20, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan Wednesday released four Sudanese journalists arrested last week while they were reporting on a protest against a large dam project in the north of the country, one of the detainees said.

Some 20 other people were also arrested and four people killed when security forces broke up the June 13 protest against the Kajbar dam project, the rights group Amnesty International said in a statement.

Sudanese authorities weren’t available for comment on the protest or the status of the other detainees, which remains unknown.

The Kajbar dam, which will flood an estimated 30 villages underwater, and another larger, nearby dam project have angered many residents in the region of northern Sudan, where poverty is rampant. The population - made up of Nubians and tribes outside Sudan’s ruling circle - have grown increasingly vocal in complaints about discrimination and neglect by Khartoum.

London-based Amnesty said that it had reports that during the protest in the village of Farraig, police and security forces opened fire on the demonstrators, killing four and wounding eight. The detainees included two lawyers, a university professor, and a freelance journalist, the group said.

The four freed journalists, who belong to independent or opposition newspapers, were held incommunicado for a week and interrogated by security services, but not mistreated, before being released early Wednesday in Khartoum, said Alfatih Abdallah, one of the detainees.

He said security services questioned them on their political opinions and had confiscated their cell phones and cameras.

"I told them I didn’t have a political color and that I’m just a journalist," Abdallah told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Khalid al-Tigani, editor of the independent weekly Eilaf said one of the newspaper’s administrators, Saad Mohamed Ahmed, was arrested Monday in Khartoum because he belongs to a committee opposition the dam.

Emergency laws in place since 1999 allow Sudanese security forces to detain people for up to nine months without charges.

A recently formed union of Sudanese journalists sent a memo to Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir Tuesday to voice their "deep anxiety" over the increase in incidents against journalists.

(AP)

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