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Sudan frees political detainees

August 16, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Security authorities in Sudan released on Thursday a number of political detainees including opposition figures who were arrested as part of a major crackdown on weeks of streets protests and increased anti-government activities.

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FILE PHOTO - Sudanese protesters gather as riot policemen stand guard during a demonstration in the capital Khartoum on July 13, 2012 (GETTY)

The released detainees include: Kamal Omer, the political secretary of the Islamist Popular Congress Party (PCP) who was arrested on 8 July; Mohammed Dia Al-Din, the spokesperson of the Baath Arab Socialist Party (BASP); lawyer activist Sati Al-Haj; and Faisal Shabo of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP).

Their release, after some of them had spent more than two months in detention, followed an announcement on Wednesday by the head of the National Intelligence and Security Services, Mohammed Atta, that they were going to release 80 detainees ahead of Eid Al-Fitr holiday that follows the holy month of Ramadan which is due to end on Sunday 19 August.

Sudan arrested hundreds of opposition members and youth activists following the outbreak in mid-June of intermittent but widespread protests sparked by the government’s decision to scrap fuel subsidies, as part of a larger austerity plan aiming to plug a budget gap of 2.4 billion US dollars resulting from the secession of oil-rich South Sudan.

Atta said that the release of the detainees, which was done at the behest of President Omer Al-Bashir, comes despite the existence of plenty of evidence proving their involvement in “inciting hatred against the state”.

Kamal Omer’s wife, Zainb Taha, said, on Thursday, that she was informed by PCP members that her husband was being released from his detention in the eastern Red Sea state and was on his way to Khartoum.

The authorities also released a number of youth activists and journalists detained in connection to the protests. These include: Mohamed Alim Boshi, a famous BASB student activist; Usamah Mohammed, an active twitter user who was arrested during the first days of the protests; also amongst those released is journalist Mohammed Al-Asbat.

Similarly, sources close to the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) said on Thursday that there was information that a number of the party’s youth detainees, most notably Mohammed Foul and Yasir Fathi, are being released.

Activist groups estimate that nearly 2000 people were arrested over the demonstrations which largely petered out with the advent of Ramadan.