Sudan: Bashir denies fearing protests, tortures protesters

Issue 

Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) is still holding dozens of protesters arrested during and after the January 30 protests against Omar al Bashir’s government. The protests were inspired by the Egyptian revolution.

The protesters are being held without charge. There are reports that many have suffered torture, including electrocution and sleep deprivation. Women detainees have been threatened with rape.

Bashir has publicly congratulated the people of Egypt for toppling Mubarak, criticising the deposed Egyptian ruler for being too close to Israel and the US. But he dismissed the possibility of suffering the same fate himself, insisting that the Sudanese people enjoy “freedom”.

The February 14 Sudan Tribune said Bashir told supporters at a February 13 rally: “We are not afraid, we do not prevent the people from expressing their opinions, but we listen to them and we want to hear their demands and their legitimate aspirations.”

Bashir accused opposition groups of plotting to “tarnish” the government’s image through an online campaign, the ST said.

He reportedly pledged to improve internet access in rural areas to enable his supporters to counter anti-government “fabrications”.

A February 16 joint statement by the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organisation Against Torture said that student activist, blogger and rap artist Ahmed Mahmoud Ahmed has been tortured three times a day since he was arrested in Khartoum Bahri on February 3.

Somood.org lists the names of more than 100 people who have been detained since the January 30 protests. The list includes journalists and members of opposition parties, some of whom have been “severely tortured”, the site said.

Others have been denied medication for chronic illnesses and prevented from seeing family.

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-Francois Julliard said on February 14 that the release two days earlier of three staff from the Sudanese Communist Party’s newspaper Al Midan after 10 days in detention, “proves just one thing, that they have not been charged and that there is nothing the authorities can officially reproach them for”.

Other Al Midan staff are still being held.

The ST reported that in Khartoum on February 13, about 30 women protested outside the NISS offices demanding the release of their relatives still being held in custody. The women delivered a petition demanding that the detainees either be charged or set free.

A similar demonstration was held on February 11, at which police arrested and briefly detained several women.

Another protest took place on February 13 outside the National Council for Press and Publications calling for the release of journalists and media workers. Police broke up the demonstration and confiscated cameras from journalists covering the action.

Security forces again responded violently to a student protest on February 15 at Khartoum University, Middle East Online reported. Hundreds of students held a sit-in after the university administration kicked out five students unable to afford their course fees.

Protesters were beaten and five students were arrested.

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