Sudan's president orders release of political prisoners

Hundreds of opposition activists, leaders and protesters were arrested in January by security agents to stop demonstrations that erupted because of rising food prices

President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan. (Photo: Agence France-Presse)
President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan. (Photo: Agence France-Presse)

The president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, has ordered the release of all political prisoners, the state-run news agency Suna reported on Tuesday, an action that appeared intended to mollify human-rights critics.

Hundreds of opposition activists, leaders and protesters were arrested in January by security agents to curb demonstrations that erupted on the back of rising food prices, including bread.

Some activists were later freed but many remained in detention, including top opposition leaders Khaled Omar of the Sudanese Congress party and Mokhtar al-Khatib, the head of the Sudan Communist party.

 “President Omar al-Bashir on Tuesday issued a decree to release all political detainees held across the country,” the official Suna news agency reported.

“The decision aims to promote peace and harmony among all political parties in order to create a positive environment for achieving national goals,” it said.

The decision seemed to be a concession by the president who came to power in 1989 in an Islamist and military-backed coup, and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur.

The US and European embassies in Sudan had called for the release of all detainees, with Washington’s mission saying many were being held in inhumane conditions.

Sudan has achieved something of a rapprochement with the West. Last October, the Trump administration lifted a host of sanctions against the country, citing, among other things, its cooperation on counterterrorism.

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