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Sudan bans media from reporting on detained leader

May 26, 2014

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudan’s general prosecutor on Monday barred media from reporting news related to the detention of a top opposition leader who was arrested for criticizing the government’s security policy in war-torn Darfur.

Yasser Mohammed’s order relates to the detention of 78-year-old opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the Ummah party. Al-Mahdi was Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister and was removed from office after the 1989 coup by current President Omar Bashir.

Al-Mahdi was whisked away from his home May 17 and later transferred to Kober prison. He faces accusations of breaching domestic security and threatening the constitution.

Mohammed said the ban is aimed at avoiding “obstruction of justice or influencing the due process of law.”

Al-Mahdi left Khartoum after his ouster, but returned in 2000 and became a prominent opposition figure, unsuccessfully running for office in 2010. Al-Mahdi is from a prominent family in Sudan’s history and has a large following, particularly in the war-ravaged western Darfur region.

In recent comments, al-Mahdi criticized the government’s policies in Darfur, accusing a paramilitary force there of rape and other human rights violations. He was interrogated by prosecutors over his public remarks and many in parliament, which is dominated by Bashir’s party, expressed anger at his comments.

Darfur has been gripped by violence since 2003, when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Bashir in March 2009, on five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes for allegedly orchestrating atrocities in Darfur.

It added three counts of genocide to the charges against him in July 2010.

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