July 8, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – A Sudanese court on Tuesday ordered the release of 13 people accused of arson and looting during the protests which erupted last September following the government’s decision to lift fuel subsidies.
- Family members and friends gather for the funeral of Salah Mudathir, 28, killed in clashes following protests in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in September 2013 (Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images)
The judge found eight people not guilty but sentenced the others to nine months already served and ordered their release.
The court had earlier thrown out charges against 24 people but four of them were kept in detention, while nine others were accused of burning and looting of a police station in Khartoum north.
Dozens of the defendants’ families and activists welcomed the acquittal with joy and cheering inside the courtroom and organised a march from the seat of the tribunal to al-Khojalab neighbourhood in Khartoum north.
During September protests, Sudanese authorities arrested dozens of protesters including four children in the al-Khojalab area on the outskirts of Khartoum, accusing them of burning and looting police station.
The police said the accused threw stones, burnt a police vehicle and stole electronic devices from a police station.
The first defendant denied his involvement in the protests and said during the investigation that he attempted to push the protesters back when they gathered near al-Khojalab. The other defendants said they were simply fulfilling their family duties and were surprised by the gunshots and teargas.
In May, a court acquitted a former army soldier accused of killing Sarah Abdel-Bagi during the protests. The judge dismissed the case, citing a lack of evidence against the man who belonged to the military at the time of Abdel-Bagi’s death.
The demonstrations erupted in Sudan’s major towns last September following a decision by the government to lift subsidies on fuel and other basic commodities, leading to calls for regime change.
At least 200 protesters died, 15 of them children, with more than 800 others detained. The government puts the death toll at 80 and accused the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) of involvement.
In February, the United Nations independent expert on human rights in Sudan, Mashood Baderin, said the numbers of dead and arrested remained unclear.
He called on the government to present him with a report on the protests as soon as possible so that he could submit his own report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at its upcoming session in September.
The government referred the request to two committees tasked with preparing the report.
During his most recent mission to Sudan in June, Baderin said the government had given him a report which he needed time to study.
In April, the UK ambassador in Khartoum, Peter Tibber, warned against trying to overlook the issue of the September victims in the ongoing national dialogue.
The families of the victims organise protests and vigils from time to time to demand the punishment of the perpetrators.