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No quick release in sight for Sudan’s detained opposition leader

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May 20, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The former prime Mminister of Sudan and the head of the National Umma Party (NUP), al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, is still being investigated while in detention, a government prosecutor said on Tuesday.

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Sudan’s former prime minister and head of the National Umma Party (NUP), al-Sadiq al-Mahdi (R) waves to protesters during a demonstration against the Israeli raids on Lebanon in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on 21 July 2006 (Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin)

Head of the state security prosecution Yasser Ahmed Mohamed said in a statement released today that al-Mahdi is in legal custody at the Kober federal prison and that they are following procedures to renew his detention periodically in accordance with the law.

The opposition leader was arrested over the weekend by Sudanese security and charged on several counts including undermining the constitutional order and opposing the regime through force.

According to Sudan’s penal code, al-Mahdi could face the death sentence or life in prison if convicted.

Al-Mahdi was questioned before state security prosecutors last Thursday regarding remarks he made claiming that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) committed serious abuses in conflict zones in Darfur and Kordofan including rape as well as looting and burning villages.

This was in response to a criminal complaint filed by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). Sudanese officials say the RSF is part of the NISS but operationally follows the army.

He was released on his personal recognizance after which he repeated his allegations.

The prosecutor said in his press release that the NISS submitted new evidence on this case which prompted them to file new charges under articles 50 and 62 of the penal code. He noted that article 114 of the Criminal Procedure Code mandates that anyone charged under these two counts must be detained.

Today’s session of parliament witnessed a clash between ruling party lawmakers and al-Samani al-Wasila, an MP from a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) faction, over the issue of al-MAhdi.

Al-Wasila described the detention as a "bomb" that blew up the atmosphere of consensus, saying that the former prime minister should have been counselled first before taking such an action which negatively impacted on the dialogue environment.

But the speaker of parliament, al-Fatih Izz al-Din, said he rejects taking risks with the country’s security for the sake of any person regardless of his status.

The chairman of the Security and Defense subcommittee said that al-Mahdi’s detention was necessitated by security measures.

Other lawmakers urged the ministry of foreign affairs to summon diplomats in Khartoum to clarify the circumstances of al-Mahdi’s detention and emphasise that it will not affect the national dialogue process.

The chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, issued a statement on Tuesday expressing "serious concern over the recent developments in Sudan as these have the potential of negatively impacting on the National Dialogue Process".

"The chairperson of the Commission underscores the importance of the National Dialogue process for the future of Sudan, and appeals to all the parties concerned to desist from any actions that could undermine its smooth conduct. In this regard, she wishes to express The Chairperson of the Commission reiterates the AU’s continued commitment to assist Sudan, through the AUHIP, in its pursuit of a new political dispensation".

She recalls her statement on 7 April, through which she commended Sudan for commencing preparations on the comprehensive and holistic national dialogue amongst the Sudanese stakeholders.

The chairman of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) Thabo Mbeki told reporters on Tuesday that he brought up the issue of al-Mahdi’s arrest during his meeting with Sudan’s first vice-president, Bakri Hassan Saleh.

(ST)

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