By Wasil Ali
May 12, 2008 (WASHINGTON) — A leading Islamist opposition party leader arrested briefly by Sudanese authorities denied any links with a Darfur rebel group that launched an attack on the capital over the weekend.
- Hassan al-Turabi
“The Justice and Equality Movement [Darfur rebel group] have no relation with the Popular Congress Party (PCP). It is true that many of JEM members used to be part of us back in the days, but they broke with us to create their own party” Hassan al-Turabi told Sudan Tribune today by phone following his release from prison.
The powerful Islamic leader was arrested in the early morning hours of Monday, and four members of his party, by Sudanese security agents as he was returning from a PCP gathering in Sennar town on the banks of the Blue Nile in southeastern Sudan.
Al-Turabi said he expected his arrest by the government so he was not surprised.
“I was telling people who accompanied me on my way back to Khartoum that I have a feeling that I am going to be detained by Sudanese security” Al-Turabi said.
Sudanese authorities said that they have obtained documents and testimony from rebel captives that could implicate Al-Turabi in the failed attempt by JEM to take over Khartoum.
Darfurian rebels staged a bold attack and fought fierce battles with the Sudanese army on the outskirts of the capital. However the Sudanese government said it repulsed the attack and accused Chad of backing the assault.
Al-Bashir said in a televised statement that he holds Chad responsible of the foiled attack by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) troops against the Sudanese capital. He also announced that diplomatic relations with Chad have been broken.
The Sudanese presidential adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail speaking to Al-Jazeera Arabic TV earlier today denied that Al-Turabi was arrested saying he was “summoned” for questioning.
But the Islamic leader dismissed Ismail statements saying he was taken to the notorious Kober prison north of Khartoum.
“It was not an interrogation like they claimed. It was an arrest. Otherwise why did they take me to Kober?” he asked.
“I think they had planned to put me in prison for a longer period of time but they probably feared the media and international pressure that would be forthcoming specially that there was a great deal of speculation on a possible crackdown against my party” Al-Turabi added.
Sudan’s First Vice President Salva Kiir appeared angry that the decision to arrest the Islamic leader was made without his consent.
Kiir said the arrest was not discussed by the presidency meeting nor was there a security report that links Al-Turabi with JEM’s assault.
Al-Turabi said he challenged the security officers interrogating him to produce any evidence showing his connection with the attack.
“They told me that they have solid proof against me but they did not show me anything. I told them if they are confident that their evidence is sound, take me to court. They have been monitoring me in my movements and know what I do on a daily basis” he said in.
The PCP chief also said the interrogators questioned him as to why he did not condemn the rebel assault.
Asked whether he expected another arrest soon, Al-Turabi said “it is a possibility”.
Al-Turabi, a former ally of President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, was the government’s ideological mastermind in the 1990s and the De-facto ruler.
However Al-Bashir and Al-Turabi split ranks and the latter was jailed on accusations of conspiracy. He was released in October 2003.
The opposition leader was jailed again for more than a year in 2004 over accusations of connections with an alleged coup plot before being released in 2005.