sudan-frees-ex-officials-in-effort-to-end-political-impasse

Sudan frees ex-officials in effort to end political impasse

CAIRO (AP) — 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 alleged betrayal of 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.

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 U.N. 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 U.N. 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, or IGAD, to facilitate Sudanese-led political talks.