Sudan activists call for ‘justice’ for killed protesters

Sudanese protesters march during a demonstration to commemorate 40 days since the sit-in massacre in Khartoum North, Sudan July 13, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 July 2019

Sudan activists call for ‘justice’ for killed protesters

  • The signing ceremony was expected to take place earlier this week, but several delays have been announced, raising suspicions the two parties might still be divided over the agreement’s details

KHARTOUM: Thousands of Sudanese flooded the streets of the capital of Khartoum and other cities on Saturday to mark the 40th day since the deadly dispersal of a protest sit-in as the country’s ruling generals and pro-democracy movement prepared to sign a power-sharing deal.
The “Justice First” marches were called by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), which has been spearheading the protests since December. Those demonstrations led to the military ouster of President Omar Al-Bashir in April.
The marches mark 40 days since the dispersal of the pro-democracy protesters’ sit-in in outside military headquarters in Khartoum on June 3. Protest organizers say security forces killed at least 128 people during the dispersal and subsequent crackdown. Authorities, however, put the death toll at 61, including three from security forces.
Protesters have called for a “transparent and fair” investigation into the deaths.
Footage and photos posted by the SPA showed thousands of people demonstrating in the capital and its sister city of Omdurman.
There were protests in other places, including the Red Sea city of Port Sudan and the eastern province of Kassala. Protesters were seen waving Sudanese flags and posters that read: “Freedom, Peace and Justice” and “Civilian (authority) is the people’s choice.”
The protest organizers hope that large numbers take part in the marches similar to massive rallies on June 30, when tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets in the biggest show of numbers in the uprising. At least 11 people were killed in clashes with security forces, according to protest organizers.
Saturday’s marches also put pressure on the ruling military council as it and the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, which represents the protesters, planned to meet to sign a power-sharing agreement. African Union envoy Mohammed El-Hassan Labat originally said a meeting would take place on Saturday night.
But Ahmed Rabei, a spokesman for the SPA, said later the protest movement called for the talks to be postponed until Sunday “for more consultations” within the FDFC on the deal. The signing ceremony was expected to take place earlier this week, but several delays have been announced, raising suspicions the two parties might still be divided over the agreement’s details.

FASTFACT

The ‘Justice First’ marches were called by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), which has been spearheading the protests since December.

The Sudanese Communist Party, which is part of the protest movement, criticized the “vague” talks between the military council and the FDFC. Mahmoud Al-Khateib, the party’s political secretary, said his party rejected the current members of the military council participation in the transition.
The deal includes a joint Sovereign Council set to rule for a little over three years while elections are organized, along with a constitutional declaration, according to a copy of the deal obtained by The Associated Press. A military leader is to head the 11-member council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18.
The deal, which also includes an FDFC-appointed cabinet, was meant to end a weekslong political deadlock between the military and protesters since the Khartoum sit-in site was cleared.
They also agreed on an independent Sudanese investigation into the deadly crackdown by security forces on the protests last month, though it’s unclear if anyone will be held accountable.


Iraqi blogger returns day after kidnapping

Updated 2 min 47 sec ago

Iraqi blogger returns day after kidnapping

  • “Around 15 men wearing masks and black uniforms” took Al-Khafaji from his home, the blogger’s father said
  • Twenty-four hours later, hei was “abandoned in a street with $20 to pay for a taxi home”

BAGHDAD: A prominent Iraqi blogger resurfaced Friday a day after he was seized by masked gunmen, his father said, as Amnesty International denounced a “climate of fear” in the country after protests and deadly violence.
Shujaa Al-Khafaji’s family said armed men had snatched him from his home on Thursday without identifying themselves or showing an arrest warrant.
Khafaji’s Facebook page, Al-Khowa Al-Nadifa (Arabic for “Those Who Have Clean Hands“), carries posts on political and social issues and has some 2.5 million followers.
“Around 15 men wearing masks and black uniforms” took Khafaji from his home, the blogger’s father, Fares Al-Khafaji, told AFP.
He said they seized his son’s phones and computers, but were not violent.
Twenty-four hours later, Khafaji was “abandoned in a street with $20 to pay for a taxi home,” his father added.
The report of Khafaji’s seizure sparked an outcry from activists and influential political leaders.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International denounced a “relentless campaign of intimidation and assault against activists in Iraq” by authorities.
“The Iraqi authorities must immediately rein in the security forces and dismantle the climate of fear they have deliberately created to stop Iraqis from peacefully exercising their rights to freedoms of expression and assembly,” said Lynn Maalouf, the group’s Middle East research director.
The group said other activists, including a doctor and a lawyer, were “forcibly disappeared more than 10 days ago,” and called on Iraqi authorities to reveal their whereabouts.
Firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr wrote on Twitter that “any act of aggression (against journalists or activists)... by the state constitutes an attack on freedom of speech.”
Former prime minister Haider Al-Abadi’s parliamentary bloc called on the government “to stop abuses of free media.”
Iraq was gripped by anti-government protests between October 1 and 6, during which 110 people, mainly demonstrators, were killed in clashes with security forces.
During the protests, unidentified armed men in uniforms raided several local television stations in Baghdad, destroying their equipment and intimidating their staff.
Journalists and activists also reported receiving threats, mostly by phone, from unidentified callers accusing them of having sided with the protesters.
Khafaji faced online harassment last month after a string of attacks on bases of the Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force dominated by pro-Iran groups.
The group on Thursday denied any involvement in the disappearance of activists, threatening legal action against anyone making such accusations.
But according to Amnesty, the Hashed was involved in at least one abduction — that of lawyer Ali Hattab, who represented protesters and was seized on October 8 in the southern city of Amara.
He was snatched by “suspected members of a faction of the Popular Mobilization Units (Hashed),” Amnesty said quoting Hattab’s relatives.
It happened two days after “two armed men from the PMU came to (his) home to warn him to stop being vocal about the killing of protesters on Facebook, otherwise they would kill him,” Amnesty added.