AP NEWS

Sudan protesters tone down demands in standoff with military

May 3, 2019
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Protesters carry posters in Arabic that say, "Freedom, justice, and peace, and the revolution is the choice of the people," at the sit-in outside the military headquarters, in Khartoum, Sudan, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Sudan's protesters are holding a mass rally to step up pressure on the military to hand power to civilians following last month's overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir. (AP Photos/Salih Basheer)

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudanese protesters toned down one of their key demands in an attempt to ease tensions with the ruling military council that took over the country after ousting longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir last month.

Meanwhile, the former president — now under arrest and held in a Khartoum prison — was ordered to appear before a military-appointed prosecutor for questioning over allegations of money laundering and terror financing, the state SUNA news agency reported Thursday.

The report had no other details on the development. Al-Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands for genocide and atrocities in Darfur but the military council has said it would not extradite the ousted president.

The military forced al-Bashir from office on April 11, after a 30-year rule, and has since jailed him and other former senior officials. But the protesters fear the generals intend to hold onto power or cut a deal with other factions that would leave much of al-Bashir’s regime intact.

They have been holding a sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, and have been negotiating with the council on the makeup of a transitional sovereign council for an interim period. But the talks have become deadlocked as both sides insist they should have the majority of seats in the transitional council.

On Thursday, the Forces of the Declaration for Freedom and Change, a coalition led by the Sudanese Professionals Association that has organized the protests, released a new proposal that drops a key issue of contention between the two sides — the allocation of seats in the transitional council.

The protesters had earlier proposed an 11-member council with three seats for the military, which in turn pushed for a 10-member council with just three civilians.

The new proposal instead offers a blueprint for a four-year-transitional period, including the makeup of an interim Cabinet and parliament.

“The number of seats has been a contentious issue with the military council,” Rashid al-Said Ya’coub, an SPA leader, told reporters at a news conference Thursday. “So we left the matter open for negotiation and this is a sign of goodwill on our part vis-à-vis the military council.”

The military council promised to respond to the new proposal in two days, according to Ahmed Rabie, another SPA leader.

Rabie denied allegations that the protesters were backtracking, and told The Associated Press they would still demand a civilian majority on the council.

Also Thursday, tens of thousands rallied in Khartoum to demand the end of military rule and chanting slogans against the military council. Another protest was expected on Friday.

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ElHennawy reported from Cairo.