Sudan police break up demo for ex-PM
KHARTOUM: Club-wielding police broke up a protest Friday by supporters of jailed Sudanese opposition leader Sadiq Al-Mahdi, beating up demonstrators, an AFP correspondent said.
Mahdi, an ex-premier who heads the opposition Umma Party, was arrested on May 17 for alleged treason after he reportedly accused a counter-insurgency unit, the Rapid Support Forces, of rape and other abuses of civilians in the Darfur region of western Sudan.
Hundreds of youths after weekly Muslim prayers emerged from a mosque in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, chanting slogans of support for Mahdi and calling for the fall of the government.
“Sadiq’s voice is the voice of the people,” and “The people demand the fall of the regime,” they chanted, while also blocking off a main road in the city.
Anti-riot police equipped with sticks and clubs gave chase, beating them up and forcing them to flee to side streets, the correspondent said.
The protesters held up banners reading: “No to dialogue with the evil ones.”
It was a reference to talks with the ruling National Congress and other parties launched by President Omar Al-Bashir to try to resolve multiple crises gripping impoverished and war-torn Sudan.
Mahdi’s Umma party has pulled out of the talks following his arrest. He is charged with treason-related offenses and could face a possible death sentence if convicted.
The Rapid Support Forces are under the authority of the National Intelligence and Security Service and have denied the claims that members of the unit had raped, looted or committed arson.
Khartoum has banned newspapers from reporting on the case.
Mahdi, a descendant of Sudan’s legendary reformer known as the “Mahdi,” is also a religious leader revered by his followers.
The United States and the European Union have expressed concern over Mehdi’s arrest.