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Sudanese protests rage on despite wide-scale crackdown

Khartoum sees its tenth consecutive day of demonstrations against price hikes as security forces arrest several key opposition figures

Ahram Online, Monday 25 Jun 2012
Tires burning during a protest in Khartoum during the current wave of unrest that emerged last weekend after the government declares economic austerity measures, Friday, June 22, 2012. (Photo: AP)

Large-scale anti-austerity demonstrations have raged in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum for the tenth day despite brutal crackdowns and mass arrests by local security forces.

Sunday saw several high-profile arrests, as security forces cordoned off the headquarters of the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP), led by veteran Islamist Hassan Al-Turabi, and apprehended four of its members.

Also arrested were Magdi Okasha, spokesman for 'Young People for Change', and Al-Fadel Aly, spokesman for the PCP.

The crackdown had little effect on the Sudanese Community Party (SCP), which called for national unity and urged demonstrations to continue the "popular struggle" and put pressure on the regime to leave power.

The SCP also called for the government to release all political prisoners, saying that the explosion of peaceful protests was the logical outcome of increasing the prices of gasoline and sugar.  

The head of the National Consensus Forces (NCF), Foruk Abu Issa, slammed the arrest of hundreds of political activists as an "unjustified escalation" and said such a crackdown was no solution to Sudan's domestic crisis.

"Sudan's people, like any other population in the region will not remain silent; further arrests will increase the state of polarisation between opposition protesters and the government in office," he said.

Last week, Egyptian journalist Salma El-Wardany was detained for 12 hours, along with Sudanese blogger Maha El-Senussi, while reporting on protests at the University of Khartoum.

The Sudanese government has also come under fire from the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) for its use of violence against peaceful protests.

"There should be dialogue with the opposition and respect for the human rights of its citizens to express themselves and protest without harassment," a statement from the rights group said last Thursday.

“We have seen the Sudanese authorities conduct mass arrests and use force to disperse peaceful protests. If the government continues in this way, there will be a catastrophe … as happened in other Arab Spring revolutions."

The network also demanded the lifting of what it called a "media siege" on the protests, and called for increased pressure on the Khartoum government to ensure it respects human rights.

Khartoum has been rocked by protests against a possible rise in fuel prices, with some demonstrators demanding the fall of the regime. Police and security forces have used tear gas and batons to disperse demonstrators.

Although initially limited to the capital city, reports emerged Monday of anti-austerity protests in eastern Sudan.

The current regime of President Omar Al-Bashir, an army officer who seized power in 1989, withstood earlier student-led protests in 1994 when thousands objected to steep rises in the prices of basic goods.

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