More than 100 Sudanese detainees, including top politicians, begin hunger strike
KHARTOUM: More than 100 Sudanese detainees, including high-profile political figures, began a hunger strike on Tuesday, allied lawyers and doctors said.
The detainees are part of the protest movement against an October 25 military coup that ended a civil-military power-sharing deal that followed the overthrow of longtime autocratic President Omar Bashir in 2019.
The coup sparked mass protests in which 81 people were killed, including two last Monday, and more than 2,000 injured, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors.
“More than 100 illegal detainees in Soba Prison today started an open hunger strike due to their unjustified and illegal detention,” the Committee for the Defense of Unlawful Detainees and Arbitrary Murder Martyrs said in a statement. .
The group said separately that a suspect in the killing of a police brigadier general had been tortured while another was in solitary confinement.
Civilian politicians Khalid Omer Yousif and Wagdi Salih were taking part in the hunger strike, said Abdelqayom Awad, a member of Yousif’s Sudanese Congress Party.
Along with former Sovereign Council member Mohamed Al-Faki Suleiman who was arrested on Sunday, the men face corruption charges apparently related to their work on a task force dismantling Bashir’s network.
The Sovereign Council was a body of civilian and military politicians set up after Bashir’s overthrow to lead a transition to democracy.
It was disbanded after the October coup, delaying these plans.
Military leaders say the coup was necessary because of internal political struggles and for the country’s security, but they say they are still determined to hold elections in mid-2023.
Military leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan said in an interview on Saturday that he was not involved in the arrests of Yousif and Salih – who were also temporarily detained during the coup – but that their work within the committee had diverged from its objectives.
On Monday, thousands of people gathered in the capital Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman, while protests also took place in the eastern city of Port Sudan and in the western region of Darfur, according to witnesses.
In Khartoum, protests had started with crowds waving national flags and carrying red balloons, as the rallies coincided with Valentine’s Day.
“Today is Nation Love Day,” read one banner.
Some shouted slogans demanding that authorities release activists who had been arrested, while others carried pictures of slain protesters.
“We demand the release of resistance committee members and politicians who have been unjustly arrested, some of whom are facing fabricated charges,” said protester Khaled Mohamed.
But as the crowd tried to approach the presidential palace, security forces fired volleys of tear gas canisters.
A protester was killed after being shot “in the neck and chest by live ammunition by coup forces” in Khartoum, the Independent Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said.
Another protester was later killed in Omdurman after being hit by “live ammunition in the left shoulder which penetrated the chest”, the committee said.
Sudanese police said in a statement that at least 102 officers were “seriously injured” while one was “shot in the foot”.
He also noted that protesters “smashed the facade” of the parliament building, set fires near an adjacent gas station and damaged several vehicles and a mosque in Omdurman.
Damage was also reported to several departments of the city’s Ministry of Youth and Sports, and items belonging to security guards were looted, he said, adding that the police had only done so. “exercise reasonable lawful force” in response.
Authorities have also arrested dozens of activists accused of belonging to the “resistance committees” that have been instrumental in organizing the protests.
“The number of people detained arbitrarily and without criminal charges has exceeded 100,” the Sudanese Professionals Association said on Monday.
Authorities on Sunday arrested Mohamed Al-Fekki, a former civilian member of the ruling Sovereign Council, who led the country under the now stalled 2019 power-sharing deal.
Last week, authorities arrested former minister Khaled Omar Youssef and Wagdi Saleh, the spokesman for Sudan’s main civilian bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change.
The arrests came just a day after they joined an FFC delegation for talks with UN Special Representative Volker Perthes as part of efforts to resolve the deepening crisis in Sudan.
The October military takeover, Sudan’s last coup since independence, has drawn widespread international condemnation and punitive measures – but authorities have shown little willingness to compromise.