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Sudan arrests dozens of political activists

October 1, 2014

CAIRO (AP) — Sudan has arrested scores of activists, lawyers and journalists over the past two weeks in a crackdown coinciding with the anniversary of massive protests against the lifting of fuel subsidies, activists and rights groups said Wednesday.

Nearly 200 people were killed during the demonstrations a year ago, according to rights groups, in the worst violence in the capital since President Omar al-Bashir came to power in 1989. Some of the protests called for al-Bashir’s ouster, while the president accused the demonstrators of using “recent economic decisions” as a pretext to topple the government.

The government flooded the capital with security forces in the days leading up to the anniversary of the demonstrations, and no major protests were held. A senior official from Sudan’s ruling party told state media that the security forces deployed in order to provide “reassurance” and that last year’s killings were “made by mistake.”

Abdel-Qayom Badour, the Secretary-General of the opposition Sudanese Congress Party, told The Associated Press that nearly 100 people from civil society organizations and opposition parties were arrested, including five members of his own party.

The Sudanese activist group Change Now released a “partial list” of 48 people arrested in the recent crackdown. It said they were seized in their workplaces, homes or on the street and are being held in unknown locations.

The U.S. State Department expressed “deep concern” over reports that “dozens of political activists and civil society leaders” were arrested ahead of planned demonstrations on Sept. 25, the anniversary of the protests.

Al-Bashir has proposed a national dialogue to include the government, opposition groups and armed rebels, but Change Now rejected the initiative, saying the government is merely trying to prolong its hold on power.

President Omar al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 coup, and his party monopolizes power and restricts civil liberties. It was not immediately possible to obtain comment from Sudanese authorities.

“The pre-emptive arrests were intended to intimidate political opponents and to limit the movement of activists during this tense period,” said Jenai Cox, Africa program manager at Freedom House, a U.S.-based research and advocacy group.

“One year after it shot its own citizens for peacefully demonstrating in their capital city, the government continues to rely on brutality to suppress fundamental rights and freedoms.”

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