Sudan frees ex-officials in effort to end political impasse

Sudan frees ex-officials in effort to end political impasse
Sudanese protesters rally against military rule on the anniversary of previous popular uprisings, in Khartoum. (AP)
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Updated 27 April 2022

Sudan frees ex-officials in effort to end political impasse

Sudan frees ex-officials in effort to end political impasse
  • Khalid Omar, a former minster, was released late Tuesday and Mohammed al-Faki Suliman, a former member of the ruling Sovereign Council, walked free from a Khartoum prison on Wednesday
  • The crackdown on protesters killed more than 90 people

CAIRO: Sudanese authorities released two outspoken former government officials from prison, lawyers said Wednesday, part of trust-building measures amid efforts to end the country’s political impasse.
Sudan was plunged into turmoil after an October military coup upended its short-lived transition to democracy after three decades of repressive rule by former strongman Omar Al-Bashir. Al-Bashir and his Islamist-backed government were removed in a popular uprising in April 2019.
Khalid Omar, a former minster of Cabinet affairs, was released late Tuesday and Mohammed Al-Faki Suliman, a former member of the ruling Sovereign Council, walked free from a prison in the capital of Khartoum on Wednesday, their defense team said.
The Criminal Court in northern Khartoum rejected prosecutors’ request to renew their detention pending investigations into an array of vague charges, including betrayal of the public trust, according to their lawyers.
Both Omar and Suliman had been detained along with dozens of other officials during the Oct. 25 coup and were released a month later as part of a deal between the military and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The premier resigned in January after failing to bridge the gap between the generals and the protest movement.
The two men were rearrested in February amid a crackdown by the generals on anti-coup groups. Dozens of activists were also detained amid relentless protests against the military’s takeover.
The crackdown on protesters killed more than 90 people, mostly young men, and injured thousands, according to a Sudanese medical group.
Suliman was also deputy head of a government-run agency tasked with dismantling the legacy of former autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir’s regime. The agency is known as The Committee to Dismantle the Regime of June 30, 1989, in reference to the Islamist-backed military coup that brought Al-Bashir to power. It was created after the uprising and for two years worked to purge Al-Bashir’s loyalists from government institutions.
The generals, including coup leader Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, have long criticized the work of the agency. It was dismantled after the coup and the generals appointed another committee to review its decisions. Many of the agency’s decision were reversed, measures seen by critics of the military as a way to enable Islamists allied with the generals.
Other members of The Committee to Dismantle the Regime of June 30, 1989, including Wagdi Saleh, Taha Osman and Babiker Faisal were also released Wednesday, their defense team said.
Earlier this month, authorities freed over two dozen activists who were detained in recent weeks over the anti-coup protests.
The military’s takeover has plunged the country into turmoil and sent its already fragile economy into free fall, with living conditions rapidly deteriorating.
The UN envoy for Sudan, Volker Perthes, warned in March that Sudan was heading for “an economic and security collapse” unless it addresses the political paralysis. Perthes’ comments to the UN Security Council angered the generals and Burhan threatened to expel him.
Perthes is now leading joint efforts with the African Union and the eight-nation east African regional group called the Intergovernmental Authority in Development to facilitate Sudanese-led political talks. Perthes and the two organizations’ envoys held a joint news conference Wednesday in Khartoum on their efforts.
Ismael Wais, IGAD special envoy to Sudan, welcomed the releases as a “very positive development.” He urged authorities to free all political prisoners and activists and lift the state of emergency as a necessary condition to help facilitate reaching an agreement on a way out of the crisis.
Mohamed Al Hacen Ould Lebatt, the AU’s envoy for Sudan, said the group will launch a political dialogue after the Islamic holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan early in May.
He said the talks will include the military and other political parties and groups except Al-Bashir’s now dissolved Congress Party, with the aim of agreeing on how the country will be ruled during the rest of transitional period and holding elections.
“The situation in this country is highly sensitive if it is not extremely dangerous,” Lebatt said, adding that the talks eventually aim at “achieving the aspiration of the Sudanese people expressed in their revolution.”
There was no immediate comment from the two main protest groups, the Sudanese Professionals Association and the Resistance Committees, which have spearheaded the uprising against Al-Bashir and the ongoing anti-coup protests. They have long demanded the removal of the military from power and the establishment of a fully civilian government.
The generals, however, have said they will only hand over power to an elected administration. They say elections will take place in July 2023, as planned in a constitutional document governing the transitional period.


Iran says crew of two seized Greek tankers not detained and are on board

Iran says crew of two seized Greek tankers not detained and are on board
Updated 58 min 32 sec ago

Iran says crew of two seized Greek tankers not detained and are on board

Iran says crew of two seized Greek tankers not detained and are on board
  • Iranian forces seized two Greek tankers in the Gulf on Friday
  • Greece said on Friday an Iranian navy helicopter landed on Greek-flagged vessel Delta Poseidon in international waters, and took the crew hostage

DUBAI: Iran’s state maritime body said on Saturday the crew of two Greek tankers seized by its Revolutionary Guards on Friday had not been detained, and were in good health and being cared for on board their vessels.
Iranian forces seized two Greek tankers in the Gulf on Friday, shortly after Tehran warned it would take “punitive action” against Athens over the confiscation of Iranian oil by the United States from a tanker held off the Greek coast.
“The crew of the two Greek tankers have not been arrested, and all crew members ... are in good health and are being protected, and provided with necessary services while on board, in accordance with international law,” Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization said in a statement carried by state media.
The two vessels were stopped over unspecified “maritime violations,” the body said.
Greece said on Friday an Iranian navy helicopter landed on Greek-flagged vessel Delta Poseidon in international waters, and took the crew hostage. It said a similar incident took place on another Greek-flagged vessel near Iran, without naming the ship. Athens said both actions violated international law.
Greek authorities last month impounded the Iranian-flagged Pegas off Greece due to European Union sanctions. The United States later confiscated the Iranian oil cargo held onboard, Reuters reported on Thursday.
The Pegas and its Russian crew were later released, but the seizure inflamed tensions as Iran and world powers seek to revive a 2015 nuclear deal.
Separately, Nour News, affiliated to an Iranian state security body, said: “Iran will not remain passive in the face of any threat to its interests, and testing Iran’s will is a strategic error that will entail heavy costs for the United States and its entourage.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted: “Our ties must not be hampered by deeply shortsighted miscalculations, including highway robbery on the command of a 3rd party.”
In 2019, Iran seized a British tanker near the Strait of Hormuz for alleged violations two weeks after British forces detained an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar, accusing it of shipping oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. Both vessels were later released.


Turkey’s Erdogan discusses advancing cooperation with UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed

Turkey’s Erdogan discusses advancing cooperation with UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed
Updated 28 May 2022

Turkey’s Erdogan discusses advancing cooperation with UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed

Turkey’s Erdogan discusses advancing cooperation with UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed
  • ‘We have achieved an 82 percent growth in trade exchanges within two years,’ the UAE’s top diplomat said
  • Emirati-Turkish relations are steadily growing and evolving

LONDON: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan received on Saturday Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE’s minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, in Istanbul, the state news agency WAM reported.
The two discussed the prospects of advancing cooperation between Turkey and the UAE across all fields and discussed regional issues and the importance of enhancing efforts to establish peace, security and stability.
The Ukrainian crisis and global developments were also discussed.


The UAE’s foreign affairs minister visited his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and explored avenues of cooperation between the countries and prospects to advance relations.
Sheikh Abdullah and Cavusoglu addressed the latest global developments, including those relevant to the stability of energy supplies and food markets in the world, and the global efforts made to reach a political settlement to the crisis in Ukraine.
The UAE’s top diplomat stressed that Emirati-Turkish relations were steadily growing and evolving, and both leaderships were determined to establish a sustainable model of a win-win partnership.
In their joint news conference, Sheikh Abdullah said: “I hope that we can work together to finalize the trade partnership agreement between our countries, whereby we can double our trade exchanges.”
Sheikh Abdullah highlighted renewable energy as one of the sectors where both nations were interested in strengthening their bilateral relations.
“This sector is not only successful from a commercial point of view, but is also consequential to our countries that are both working toward reducing carbon emissions in the world.”


Sheikh Abdullah praised the increase in the volume of trade between the two countries to about AED50 billion. “We have achieved an 82 percent growth in trade exchanges within two years,” he said.
Cavusoglu said that the talks with Sheikh Abdullah touched on many issues related to collaboration in sectors such as trade, economy, technology and energy, stressing that the UAE was Turkey’s largest trade partner in the region.
He indicated that Turkish investors were keen to increase their investment in the UAE.
In response to a question about the future of relations between the two countries, Sheikh Abdullah said: “We talked about some ideas, especially with regards to renewable, solar and electric energy. One of the world’s key companies working in this field today, namely the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar), is highly interested in seeking business opportunities in Turkey.”
He added that Turkey had great potential in the field of tourism.


“Our interest is not only focused on working in Turkey, but also working with Turkey in other parts of the world, including Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia.”
On his recent visit to Israel, Cavusoglu said that dialogue was necessary and fruitful. “Differences might exist, but severing relations is not good. We have conveyed the message to our Palestinian brothers as well as to the Israelis; and we will work to take additional steps in collaboration with Egypt in this regard.”
Sheikh Abdullah said: “There is no doubt that encouraging a return to the peace process and dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis is extremely important.”
He said that Turkey was making efforts on the stability of Libya. “With regards to Yemen, we have expressed our full solidarity with the UAE and Saudi Arabia following the terrorist attacks on the two countries.”


Yemeni parties conclude initial round of discussions to reopen key roads

Yemeni parties conclude initial round of discussions to reopen key roads
Updated 28 May 2022

Yemeni parties conclude initial round of discussions to reopen key roads

Yemeni parties conclude initial round of discussions to reopen key roads
  • The discussions began on Wednesday, and are part of the UN-brokered truce that came into effect on April 2
  • Taiz governor said a military operation would break the siege of Taiz if talks did not lead to reopening roads

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Representatives from the Yemeni government and the Houthis convened in Amman on Saturday to discuss a final draft of an agreement on opening roads in Taiz and elsewhere.

The discussions on opening the regions’ roads began on Wednesday, and are part of the UN-brokered truce that came into effect on April 2.

The talks were on the verge of collapse on Friday, with the Yemeni government threatening to walk away after the Houthis refused to open the main roads that link the city of Taiz with Hodeidah, Aden and Sanaa, suggesting only opening a narrow mountain route.

Maj. Mohammed Abdullah Al-Mahmoudi, deputy head of the Yemeni government delegation on Taiz, told Arab News that it had insisted on lifting the Houthis’ siege of the city by opening the main roads.

“The Houthis want to impose their conditions,” Al-Mahmoudi said.

Taiz Gov. Nabil Shamsan said a military operation would break the siege of Taiz if the talks in Amman did not lead to the reopening roads.

“As Taiz holds an olive branch today, it also possesses a shield and a sword. Taiz is currently fortified by an unprecedented national alignment that is growing every moment,” the governor tweeted.

Other military officials and activists also demanded the use of military force to end the siege.

“The least costly solution to lift the siege on Taiz is to return to the military option by supporting the forces to get rid of the Houthi shame. And this is the safest solution not only for Taiz, but for all Yemen,” Ibrahim Abdul Gader, an activist, tweeted.

Dozens of human rights groups, activists, government officials and Taiz residents have launched a new campaign on social media, using hashtag #Siege_of_Taiz_crime, to pressure the world to order the Houthis to open roads in the city.

Yemenis widely circulated images of cars loaded with goods and fuel overturning on the steep and unpaved slopes drivers were forced to turn to after the Houthis blocked the city’s main entrances.

Marwan Ali Noman, deputy permanent representative of Yemen to the UN, described the siege of the city as “ a war crime” that must be ended.

“The siege by #Houthis on #Taiz in #Yemen for more than 7 years now is a smirch on humanity. This war crime must end now,” Noman tweeted.

Yemenis say that many residents in Taiz evacuated their homes near the Houthi checkpoints that blockade the city, fleeing from snipers and landmines.

The online campaign also criticized the international community for not aggressively pushing to end the siege as it did for opening Sanaa airport and Hodeidah port.

“#Taiz has been besieged by #Houthis since 2015 amid international silence that turns this tragedy into a sub-issue which receives little attention. Unfortunately, this file is only discussed marginally when there are international efforts to end this war,” Mohammed Al-Dhabyani, a Yemeni TV anchor, tweeted.


Iran shows off underground drone base, but not its location – state media

Iran shows off underground drone base, but not its location – state media
Updated 28 May 2022

Iran shows off underground drone base, but not its location – state media

Iran shows off underground drone base, but not its location – state media
  • State TV said 100 drones were being kept in the heart of the Zagros mountains, including Ababil-5

The Iranian army has given some details — but not the exact location — of an underground base for its military drones, state media reported on Saturday, amid simmering tensions in the Gulf.
State TV said 100 drones were being kept in the heart of the Zagros mountains, including Ababil-5, which it said were fitted with Qaem-9 missiles, an Iranian-made version of air-to-surface US Hellfire.
“No doubt the drones of Islamic Republic of Iran’s armed forces are the region’s most powerful,” army commander Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi said. “Our capability to upgrade drones is unstoppable,” he added.
The Iranian state TV correspondent said he had made the 45-minute helicopter flight on Thursday from Kermanshah in western Iran to a secret underground drone site. He was allowed to take blindfolds off only upon arrival at the base, he said.
TV footage showed rows of drones fitted with missiles in a tunnel, which it said was several hundred meters underground.
The TV report came a day after Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized two Greek tankers in the Gulf, in an apparent retaliation for the confiscation of Iranian oil by the United States from a tanker held off the Greek coast.
Greek authorities last month impounded the Iranian-flagged Pegas, with 19 Russian crew members on board, due to European Union sanctions. The United States later confiscated the Iranian oil cargo held onboard and plans to send it to the United States on another vessel.
The Pegas was later released, but the seizure inflamed tensions at a delicate time, with Iran and world powers seeking to revive a nuclear deal that former US President Donald Trump abandoned, reimposing sanctions on Tehran.


Iran police tear-gas protesters after building collapse – media

Iran police tear-gas protesters after building collapse – media
Updated 28 May 2022

Iran police tear-gas protesters after building collapse – media

Iran police tear-gas protesters after building collapse – media
  • A large section of the 10-story Metropol building that was under construction in Abadan, Khuzestan province crumbled on Monday

TEHRAN: Iranian police fired tear gas and warning shots to disperse protesters in the southwestern city of Abadan where a tower block collapse killed 28 people, local media reported on Saturday.
A large section of the 10-story Metropol building that was under construction in Abadan, Khuzestan province, crumbled on Monday in one of Iran’s deadliest such disasters in years.
It was the third night of protests in Abadan and other cities of the province which borders Iraq, local media reported.
Security forces in Abadan “used tear gas and shot in the air near the collapse site” on Friday night to disperse hundreds of protesters, who were mourning the lives lost and demanding justice for the perpetrators of the incident, Fars news agency said.
A number of people shouted “death to incompetent officials” and “incompetent officials must be executed,” similar to calls in protests on Wednesday and Thursday nights, it added.
Elsewhere in Khuzestan another protest, in the city of Bandar-e Mahshahr, saw people chanting while banging on traditional drums and hitting cymbals, images published by Fars showed.
People also took to the streets further afield including in the central Iranian cities of Isfahan, Yazd and Shahin Shahr on Friday to express sympathy with the victims of the tragedy, Fars news agency said.
On Thursday night, a shop in Abadan belonging to the family of the building’s owner “was set on fire and destroyed by unknown individuals,” Tasnim news agency reported earlier.
Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, who is in Abadan, said on Saturday that “two more bodies were recovered” and sent for identification, raising the death toll to 28, according to state news agency IRNA.
Officials, however, have not announced how many are people still trapped under the rubble.
The number of suspects has also risen.
Khuzestan’s provincial judiciary said on Saturday that 13 people have now been arrested in relation with the incident, including the mayor and two former mayors, IRNA said.
In a statement posted on his official website on Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for those responsible to be prosecuted and punished.
First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber told state television that “widespread corruption existed between the contractor, the builder, the supervisor and the licensing system.”
In January 2017, 22 people, including 16 firefighters, died in a blaze that engulfed the 15-story Plasco shopping center in Tehran.