Emergency court sentences student protesters to jail in Sudan

They included two female students of Khartoum’s Ahfad University for Women
Sudanese protesters wave their national flag and chant slogans during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on January 31, 2019. – Sudanese police fired tear gas at crowds of demonstrators in the capital and other cities today, witnesses said, as fresh protests demanded an end to President Omar al-Bashir’s three-decade rule. Chanting “freedom, peace, justice”, the rallying cry of the protest movement that has rocked Sudan for weeks, demonstrators took to the streets in both Khartoum and Omdurman. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

A Sudanese court on Wednesday sentenced three protesters, including two female university students, to six months in jail for taking part in a banned demonstration earlier in the day, their lawyer said.

The authorities have set up special emergency courts to investigate violations of a nationwide state of emergency imposed by President Omar al-Bashir on February 22 to end widespread demonstrations that erupted against his iron-fisted rule in December.

As part of the state of emergency, Bashir has issued a slew of tough measures that include banning unauthorised rallies.

The three protesters were sentenced by an emergency court in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman, defence lawyer Enaam Atieg told AFP.

They included two female students of Khartoum’s Ahfad University for Women, who were arrested earlier in the day for participating in a protest in Omdurman, she added.

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“We will file an appeal for the three protesters tomorrow,” she said.

The Democratic Lawyers Alliance, a lawyers’ group that is part of the protest movement confirmed the sentencing, which it slammed as an “aggressive punishment”.

Groups of protesters had staged a rally in Omdurman on Wednesday but were quickly dispersed by riot police, witnesses said.

Bashir had initially announced that any violations to the state of emergency, especially participating in banned rallies, were punishable with a jail term of up to 10 years.

But he later issued an order that the maximum jail term for such violations would be six months.

On Sunday, six other protesters were each sentenced to six months in jail for violating the state of emergency.

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Protests initially erupted on December 19 in the central town of Atbara in response to a government decision to triple the price of bread.

They swiftly escalated into nationwide demonstrations calling for an end to Bashir’s three-decade rule.

Protesters accuse his administration of mismanaging the economy, causing food prices to soar and creating shortages of fuel and foreign currency.

Bashir has remained defiant, imposing the state of emergency after an initial crackdown failed to quell the protests.

The veteran leader had initially declared a year-long state of emergency, but parliament cut it to six months.

Officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence, but Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 51, including children and medics.

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