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Sudanese opposition leader Turabi arrested

Islamist opposition leader Hassan Turabi was arrested overnight after referring to a 'Tunisian-style' uprising in Sudan

AP, Tuesday 18 Jan 2011
Sudanese opposition leader Hassan Turabi. (AP)

Sudanese security forces arrested Sudan's top Islamist opposition leader overnight after he called for a Tunisia-style uprising in the country, family members said Tuesday.

Hassan Turabi and his bodyguard were taken into custody around midnight Monday, according to Turabi's wife, Wessal Al-Mahdi.

She said the bodyguard, who was released early Tuesday, had bruises on his face and claimed he had been beaten while in custody. Turabi, meanwhile, remains in detention.

Turabi's son, Siddiq, said around eight other members of Turabi's Islamic Popular Congress Party (PCP) also were arrested.

The elder Turabi recently has spoken out against President Omar Al-Bashir's government and has called for a popular revolt similar to the one in Tunisia that toppled the country's authoritarian president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Echoing her husband's position, Turabi's wife said the PCP is "against the government and we want to bring it down by any means." "They will use violence and we will use rallies and slogans. This is what all the opposition forces in Sudan will do," she said.

A recent hike in the price of oil and basic commodities has sparked protests by university students and calls for the resignation of local officials.

Turabi's challenge to Al-Bashir's government comes at a tumultuous time for Sudan. Voters in the country's south on Saturday wrapped up a weeklong referendum on independence that is widely expected to see southern Sudan split off into a new country.

Al-Bashir, who is wanted on an international indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the western region of Darfur, also faces rebellions in the west and east, as well as internal political opposition.

Turabi was the driving force behind the 1989 military coup that brought Al-Bashir to power. The two set up an Islamist-style government, until they fell out in 1999, and Turabi set up his own party.

He was the only Sudanese politician who has dared say Al-Bashir should surrender to an international court.

Turabi has been arrested several times in the past, most recently in May when he was held for seven weeks. His son Siddiq said the most recent arrest is a warning to the rest of the opposition.

"This is a message to the rest of the political opposition forces to shut up," he said.

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