Families seek justice for Sudan’s slain anti-Bashir coup plotters

Awatef Mirghani holds a portrait of Esmat Mirghani, a Sudanese officer who was executed in 1990, during an interveiw with AFP in her home in the capital Khartoum on July 27, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 01 August 2020

Families seek justice for Sudan’s slain anti-Bashir coup plotters

  • Since 1990 attempt, they have endured intimidation, arrests and beatings, but now they see hope

KHARTOUM/CAIRO: After decades of searching for their loved ones’ remains, the families of slain Sudanese officers who attempted a coup against strongman Omar Bashir are demanding the killers be held accountable.

Since the 1990 attempt, they have endured intimidation, arrests and beatings — but Bashir’s ouster in April 2019 spurred hopes that they could finally receive justice.
Last week, investigators looking into crimes during the strongman’s 30-year rule found the bodies of the 28 officers dumped in a mass grave in the city of Omdurman.
The coup attempt came just months after Bashir overthrew the democratically elected government of Sadiq Al-Mahdi in 1989.
The attempt to oust him was thwarted and the officers were immediately executed.
“We have been searching for their graves for 30 years. It was a heinous crime. There was no trial, no investigation and they were executed only 24 hours after their arrest,” said Awatef Mirghani, the sister of one of the officers, Esmat.
“They were all dumped in a single grave, still wearing their uniforms. It was a violation of human dignity,” she said, choking back tears.
In her Khartoum house, Fathiya Kembal keeps at a framed photo of her husband, Bashir Abudeik, in uniform and flashing a broad smile.
The photo, taken as he attended training in the US, bears a black band on one side as a sign of mourning.
It was April 22, 1990 when the couple and their children gathered at a friend’s house for iftar, an evening meal to break the fast during Ramadan.
Abudeik later drove his family to her father’s house, where “he said he would be busy for two days.”
The following morning, she woke up to the news of a coup attempt.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Last week, investigators looking into Bashir’s crimes found the bodies of the 28 officers in a mass grave.

• The coup attempt came just months after Bashir overthrew Sadiq Al-Mahdi’s govt in 1989.

She rushed to a nearby military base to check on her husband. At the gate, she met some of her husband’s colleagues, who avoided her gaze.
“They knew he would be killed,” the 61-year-old lawyer said.
The news of her husband’s execution, along with other coup plotters, was announced on the official Radio Omdurman the next day.
“It was a massacre. (Abudeik’s killing) was an extrajudicial execution,” she said.
The families of the slain officers quickly united to call for justice and find the bodies of their loved ones.
“Our movement was formed in the spur of the moment and has never stopped since with women — wives, sisters, mothers — at its core,” said Kembal.
As they sought answers, they faced a heavy-handed crackdown.
Their protests outside government buildings were violently broken up by security forces.
Many were arrested or banned from civil service jobs. Some were forced into exile.
But their movement found a ray of hope as nationwide protests erupted against Bashir in December 2018, mainly triggered by economic hardship. The families joined the demonstrations, including the protest camp outside army headquarters in Khartoum.
They issued a booklet saying the officers had sought “to restore the democratic rule Bashir had overthrown, win the release of political detainees and bring those who undermined the constitutional order to trial.”
The officers’ bodies have yet to be exhumed, but the families hope their memories will be honored.


Lebanon information minister quits in first government resignation over blast

Updated 09 August 2020

Lebanon information minister quits in first government resignation over blast

  • Manal Abdel-Samad apologizes to the Lebanese public for failing them
  • Explosion killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s information minister Manal Abdel Samad on Sunday quit in the first government resignation since a deadly port blast killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital.

“After the enormous Beirut catastrophe, I announce my resignation from government,” she said in a statement carried by local media, apologizing to the Lebanese public for failing them.

The head of Lebanon’s Maronite church meanwhile called on the entire government to step down over the August 4 explosion, a blast widely seen as shocking proof of the rot at the core of the state apparatus.

Lebanese protesters enraged by the blast vowed to rally again after a night of street clashes in which they stormed several ministries.

Maronite patriarch Beshara Rai joined the chorus of people pressing Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet to step down over a blast he said could be “described as a crime against humanity.”

“It is not enough for a lawmaker to resign here or a minister to resign there,” Rai said in a Sunday sermon.

“It is necessary, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the immense responsibility required, for the entire government to resign, because it is incapable of moving the country forward.”

Rai echoed calls by Diab for early parliamentary polls — a long-standing demand of a protest movement that began in October, demanding the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt.

He also joined world leaders, international organizations and the angry Lebanese public by pressing for an international probe into an explosion authorities say was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse, where a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate had languished for years.

President Michel Aoun on Friday rejected calls for an international investigation, which he said would “dilute the truth.”

At least six lawmakers have quit since the explosion.

Under increased pressure from the street and foreign partners exasperated by the leadership’s inability to enact reforms, Diab’s government is fraying at the edges.