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.


Jordan govt blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port

Jordan govt blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port
Updated 8 min 17 sec ago

Jordan govt blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port

Jordan govt blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port
  • The accident happened when a tank filled with 25 tons of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported

AMMAN: The Jordanian government on Sunday blamed a lack of safety measures for the deadly gas leak in Aqaba last week.


A total of 13 people were killed, and 250 others were hospitalized when a chlorine tank exploded after a crane dropped it at the Red Sea port of Aqaba, releasing a large plume of toxic yellow smoke.

The accident happened when a tank filled with 25 tons of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported.

Announcing the results of the investigation into the gas leak tragedy, Jordanian Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya said that the reason behind the accident was the incompatibility of the metal wire that carried the gas tank with its weight.

During a press conference on Sunday, Al-Faraya said that the weight of the tank was “three times more than the cable load capacity.”

Al-Faraya also said that the required safety procedures in dealing with such hazardous material were not in place while loading the gas tank on the truck.

The minister said that the safety attendant was not present on the ship to check the loading and unloading protocols and procedures.

Al-Faraya said that the report into the Aqaba gas leak would be referred to the prosecutor-general for further investigation.

Faisal Shboul, minister of state for media affairs, said that the state institutions’ response to the incident was “professional and immediate,” which resulted in the gas leak being contained and the situation being brought under control.

He also commended the “high efficiency” of the health care system in Aqaba, saying that only eight injured in the accident were currently receiving treatment.

Prime Minister Bishr Al-Khasawneh said that, as per the recommendations of the investigation team, the Cabinet had approved the termination of the services of the directors of the Jordan Maritime Commission and the Aqaba Company for Port Operation and Management and other officials.

Chairing a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Khasawneh also blamed the absence of the required safety measures for the gas leak.

In a statement to Arab News, the premier said that the “government’s professional and rapid response to the incident has greatly helped mitigate the disaster and its consequences on the port city and its residents.”

He said that the government had implemented the king’s directives to embark on a comprehensive investigation into the incident.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has called for those responsible for the deadly gas leak to be held accountable.

Chairing a meeting last Tuesday at the National Center for Security and Crisis Management, the king “stressed the need to provide transparent explanations to the public after investigations conclude, as well as identifying shortcomings and holding those responsible to account by law.”

Following the gas leak tragedy, employees at the port of Aqaba have been staging a sit-in, demanding better safety measures at their work sites and better living conditions.


Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership

Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership
Updated 03 July 2022

Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership

Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership
  • British Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East Amanda Milling is on a visit to Manama
  • Bahrain’s minister of finance and national economy affirmed the depth of UK-Bahraini relations

RIYADH: Bahrain’s finance minister has stressed the importance of continuing to develop the partnership between his country and the UK in order to create more ambitious investment opportunities, Bahrain News Agency reported on Sunday.

Minister of Finance and National Economy, Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, also affirmed the depth of UK-Bahraini relations which has strengthened economic cooperation and partnership between the two countries.

The minister also highlighted the importance of building on fruitful cooperation between the two countries and opening up new horizons so as to achieve common aspirations and goals.

The comments were made during the British Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East Amanda Milling’s visit to Manama.

Milling said she was delighted to visit Bahrain and pleased to meet with British embassy officials to learn more about the “on-going work with the Bahrain government.”


2 women killed in shark attacks off Egypt’s Red Sea coast

2 women killed in shark attacks off Egypt’s Red Sea coast
Updated 14 sec ago

2 women killed in shark attacks off Egypt’s Red Sea coast

2 women killed in shark attacks off Egypt’s Red Sea coast
  • The Environment Ministry said it has formed a committee to investigate the attacks

CAIRO: Two women were killed over the weekend in shark attacks off Egypt’s Red Sea coast, a tourist hotspot.

The first victim was a 68-year-old Austrian woman who lost an arm and a leg due to a shark attack yet managed to swim to shore to seek help.

She immediately received medical attention and was taken to an ambulance, where she died minutes later. She had been living in Egypt for the past few years with her Egyptian husband.

The second victim, a middle-aged Romanian tourist, was found dead hours after the first attack. Her identity is yet to be revealed. 

The two attacks occurred around 600 meters away from each other, and resulted in authorities suspending any activities in the area. The Environment Ministry said it has formed a committee to investigate the attacks.

The state has been trying to revive tourism since the industry was hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Tourism accounts for around 12 percent of Egypt’s gross domestic product.


Austrian, Egyptian FMs hold talks in Cairo

Austrian, Egyptian FMs hold talks in Cairo
Updated 03 July 2022

Austrian, Egyptian FMs hold talks in Cairo

Austrian, Egyptian FMs hold talks in Cairo
  • Topics discussed include terrorism, immigration, Russia-Ukraine war, global food crisis

CAIRO: Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry held talks in Cairo, discussing the fight against terrorism, illegal immigration, the Russia-Ukraine war and the resulting global food crisis.

At a joint press conference, Schallenberg stressed the importance of resolving the global food crisis resulting from the conflict.

Shoukry said the war has impacted all the world’s countries, adding: “Egypt is the largest importer of wheat in the world, but we have enough reserves for our people and we are working to provide other quantities.”

He said Egypt is in contact with all parties, and its goal is to restore stability and end the conflict.

Shoukry received Schallenberg at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry headquarters. They discussed ways to enhance cooperation between Egypt and Austria, especially in the political, economic and investment fields.


Egypt’s House of Representatives approves Saudi PIF deal

Egypt’s House of Representatives approves Saudi PIF deal
Updated 03 July 2022

Egypt’s House of Representatives approves Saudi PIF deal

Egypt’s House of Representatives approves Saudi PIF deal
  • The agreement aims to encourage, support and protect PIF investments in Egypt

CAIRO: Egypt’s House of Representatives, the lower house of Parliament, has approved an agreement signed in March between Cairo and Riyadh regarding Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

The agreement aims to encourage, support and protect PIF investments in Egypt, enhance bilateral trade, and expand both countries’ investments in other countries regionally and internationally.

The PIF, established in 1971, is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, with assets estimated at $620 billion.