Sudan sentences 27 security forces to death for torturing, killing protester

Right after he died, police denied any police wrongdoing and blamed his death on an “illness,” without providing any details. (File/AFP)
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Updated 30 December 2019

Sudan sentences 27 security forces to death for torturing, killing protester

  • The protester Ahmed Al-Khair was a school teacher
  • The demonstrations started after the prices of bread increased

CAIRO: A court in Sudan on Monday sentenced 27 members of the country’s security forces to death for torturing and killing a detained protester during the uprising against Sudan’s longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir earlier this year.
The death of protester Ahmed Al-Khair, a school teacher, while in detention in February was a key point — and a symbol — in the uprising that eventually led to the military’s ouster of Al-Bashir. Monday’s convictions and sentences, which can be appealed, were the first connected to the killings of protesters in the revolt.
Last December, the first rally was held in Sudan to protest the soaring cost of bread, marking the beginning of a pro-democracy movement that convulsed the large African country. That led, in April, to the toppling by the military of Al-Bashir, and ultimately to the creation of a joint military-civilian Sovereign Council that has committed to rebuilding the country and promises elections in three years.
The anniversary of that protest this month drew teeming crowds to the streets in several cities and towns across the country, with people singing, dancing and carrying flags. A train packed with exuberant demonstrators, clapping and chanting, arrived in the northern city of Atbara, the birthplace of the uprising, from the capital, Khartoum.
Monday’s verdict in the trial of the security forces took place in a court in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, where dozens of protesters had gathered outside the courtroom, demanding justice for Al-Khair.
Al-Khair was detained on Jan. 31 in the eastern province of Kassala and was reported dead two days later. His body was taken to a local hospital where his family said it was covered in bruises. At the time, police denied any police wrongdoing and blamed his death on an “illness,” without providing any details.
The court, however, said on Monday that the teacher was beaten and tortured while in detention. The 27 sentenced were policemen who were working in the jail where Al-Khair was held or intelligence agents in the region.
Also this month, a court in Khartoum convicted Al-Bashir of money laundering and corruption, sentencing him to two years in a minimum security lockup. The image of the former dictator in a defendant’s cage sent a strong message, on live TV for all of Sudan.
The deposed ruler is under indictment by the International Criminal Court on far more serious charges of war crimes and genocide linked to his brutal suppression of the insurgency in the western province of Darfur in the early 2000s. The military has refused to extradite him to stand trial in The Hague.
Amnesty International and other rights groups have called on the new government to hold security forces accountable for killing scores of people in their efforts to stifle protests against military rule, especially those behind a deadly crackdown on a huge sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum last June.
Since last December, nearly 200 protesters have been killed in Sudan. The government recently appointed independent judges to oversee investigations into the killings, a major achievement for the protest movement.
Sudan is under heavy international and regional pressure to reform. With the economy on the brink, the new government has made it a mission to get Sudan removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism so that it can attract badly needed foreign aid.


Egypt, Sudan suspend talks with Ethiopia over disputed dam

Updated 4 min 36 sec ago

Egypt, Sudan suspend talks with Ethiopia over disputed dam

CAIRO: Egypt and Sudan suspended talks with Ethiopia after it proposed linking a deal on its newly constructed reservoir and giant hydroelectric dam to a broader agreement about the Blue Nile waters that would replace a colonial-era accord with Britain.
The African Union-led talks among the three key Nile basin countries are trying to resolve a years-long dispute over Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile.
Ethiopia says the dam will provide electricity to millions of its nearly 110 million citizens, while Egypt, with its own booming population of about 100 million, sees the project as an existential threat that could deprive it of its share of the Nile waters. The confluence of the White Nile and the Blue Nile near the Sudanese capital of Khartoum forms the Nile River that flows the length of Egypt.
A colonial-era deal between Ethiopia and Britain effectively prevents upstream countries from taking any action — such as building dams and filling reservoirs — that would reduce the share of Nile’s water which the deal gave downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan. Blue Nile is the source of as much as 85% of the Nile River water.
Sudan’s Irrigation Minster Yasir Abbas said that Ethiopia’s proposal on Tuesday threatened the entire negotiations, which had just resumed through online conferencing Monday.
Sudan and Egypt object to Ethiopia’s filling of the reservoir on the dam without a deal among the three nations. On Monday, the three agreed that technical and legal teams would continue their talks on disputed points, including how much water Ethiopia would release downstream in case of a major drought.
Ethiopia on Tuesday floated a proposal that would leave the operating of the dam to a comprehensive treaty on the Blue Nile, according to Abbas, the Sudanese minister.
“Sudan will not accept that lives of 20 million of its people who live on the banks of the Blue Nile depend on a treaty,” he said. He said Sudan would not take part in talks that link a deal on teh dam to a deal on the Blue Nile.
With the rainy season, which started last month, bringing more water to the Blue Nile, Ethiopia wants to fill the reservoir as soon as possible.
Ethiopia’s irrigation ministry said Wednesday the proposal was “in line” with the outcome of an African Union summit in July and Monday’s meeting of the irrigation ministers. It said the talks are expected to reconvene on Aug. 10, as proposed by Egypt.
Ethiopian Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele tweeted Tuesday that his country would like to sign the first filling agreement as soon as possible and “also continue negotiation to finalize a comprehensive agreement in subsequent periods.”
The issue of Ethiopia’s dam also threatens to escalate into a full-blown regional conflict as years of talks with a variety of mediators, including the US, have failed to produce a solution.