Sudan’s veteran opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi called on Friday for an “objective” international investigation into last week’s deadly crackdown on protesters, after the ruling military council rejected such a probe.
Mahdi’s call was backed by top US envoy Tibor Nagy, who urged an “independent and credible” investigation into the June 3 killings.
Thousands of protesters who had camped outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum for weeks were dispersed in an operation which left dozens dead.
The crackdown followed the collapse of talks between protest leaders and generals, following the ouster of president Omar al-Bashir.
The generals had repeatedly pledged they would not disperse the sit-in, but on Thursday admitted that “mistakes” had been made.
Mahdi, speaking after attending Friday prayers at a mosque in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, condemned the operation.
“The protest’s dispersal was wrong. There should be an independent international investigation into it,” he told AFP.
“It’s important that the probe is objective and not biased in favour of the authorities.”
Mahdi’s elected government was toppled in a 1989 coup led by Bashir, who then ruled for three decades before being ousted in April following mass protests.
‘Independent and credible’
Nagy, the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, also called for an investigation.
“The USA believe very strongly there has to be an investigation which is independent and credible which will hold accountable those committing the egregious events,” he said in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, after a two-day visit to Khartoum.
Along with the newly-appointed US special envoy to Sudan, Donald Booth, Nagy met with military council chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on Thursday.
The June 3 crackdown left about 120 people dead and hundreds wounded, according to doctors linked to protesters, while the health ministry put the death toll at 61.
The protest movement has also called for an international probe, something rejected by the military council.
“We do not accept an international investigating committee. We are a sovereign state,” council spokesman Shamseddine Kabbashi told reporters late Thursday.
Expressing “regret” over the crackdown, Kabbashi said the plan had been to clear an area close to the sit-in — but “excesses happened”.
He said the military is carrying out its own inquiry, whose findings are to be released on Saturday.
‘Harsh and unacceptable’
On Friday, worshippers at the mosque linked to Mahdi’s National Umma Party appeared frustrated with the generals’ version of the crackdown.
“The way the sit-in was dispersed was harsh and unacceptable,” said Salim Gebril, a university professor and member of the National Umma Party.
“They (the military rulers) keep saying they are looking forward to reaching an agreement (with the protest leaders) but their tone sounded as if they may take another route.”
Another worshipper, Abdelrahman Amir al-Tom, found the military council’s statement to be “extremely disappointing”.
Protest leaders and generals have now agreed to resume talks after mediation led by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Mahdi believes the mediation “may have a positive impact,” and may help both sides overcome the differences.
“In the end, the military council cannot rule, that is clear, and civilian forces cannot talk about a future without the participation of the military council,” the former premier said.
Morocco frees journalist jailed for abortion after royal pardon
Hajar Raissouni was sentenced on September 30, along with her Sudanese fiancé for having sexual relations out of wedlock
Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni who was sentenced to one year in jail for an “illegal abortion” and sexual relations outside marriage walked free on Wednesday, shortly after being granted a royal pardon.
In a case that had provoked a storm of protests from rights groups, the justice ministry said the 28-year-old woman was released on a pardon issued by King Mohammed VI.
Rassiouni was sentenced on September 30, along with her Sudanese fiancé, a gynaecologist, anaesthetist and a medical assistant, whose convictions were also overturned, an official told reporters.
The journalist made a victory sign to the waiting media as they emerged from El-Arjat prison near Rabat, but she made no statement before joining her family and friends.
The ministry said the monarch wanted to help “preserve the future of the couple, who wanted to establish a family in line with our religious and legal precepts, despite the error they made”.
The amnesty was decided on the grounds of “compassion”, it said.
A government source told reporters the ruling was made “without entering into the debate that is sovereign to Moroccan citizens on the evolution of their society and in which, regrettably, certain foreigners, intellectuals, media and NGOs invited themselves to take part”.
The journalist at the Akhbar Al-Yaoum newspaper, which has a history of run-ins with the authorities, denounced the affair as a “political trial”, saying she had been questioned by police about her family and her writing.
Youne Maskine, a director of Akhbar Al-Yaoum, took to Twitter to hail “finally a wise decision”.
Raissouni was arrested on August 31 as she left a clinic in Rabat. In court, she denied having had an abortion, saying she had been treated for internal bleeding — testimony backed up by her gynaecologist.
She was sentenced under Article 490 of the Muslim-majority kingdom’s legal code.
That article punishes sexual relations out of wedlock, while the law also forbids all abortions unless the mother’s life is in danger.
‘Obsolete’ ban –
In a case that sparked widespread debate on personal and media freedoms in Morocco, her gynaecologist, who spoke up in her defence, was given two years and her fiancé one year in prison.
The anaesthetist was handed a one-year suspended sentence and the medical assistant eight months, also suspended.
Rights groups were quick to condemn the verdicts, which Amnesty International described as a “devastating blow for women’s rights” in the country.
Ahmed Benchemsi, the regional director for Human Rights Watch, described the sentencing of Raissouni and her fiancé as a “black day for freedom in Morocco”.
The verdicts were “a blatant injustice, a flagrant violation of human rights, and a frontal attack on individual freedoms,” he wrote on Twitter.
The prosecution insisted she had been seen by a medic and showed signs of pregnancy and of having undergone a “late voluntary abortion”.
It had said her detention had “nothing to do with her profession as a journalist”.
Between 600 and 800 back-shop abortions occur each day in Morocco, according to estimates by campaign groups.
In a manifesto published on September 23 by Moroccan media outlets, hundreds of women declared themselves “outlaws” by claiming to have already violated the “obsolete” laws of their country on abortion and other social norms.
In the early 1970s, in a similar text, French women calling themselves the “343 sluts” famously declared they had had an abortion when it was still illegal.
Last year, Morocco tried thousands of people for sex out of wedlock, 170 people for being gay and 73 for pregnancy terminations.
Sudan announces “permanent ceasefire” as peace talks hit deadlock
The talks were launched on Monday, but a rebel group says it would pull out unless the government withdrew from its territories
Sudan announced Wednesday a “permanent ceasefire” in the country’s war zones even as a key rebel group threatened to pull out of peace talks, accusing government forces of bombing its territory.
Juba has been hosting talks between new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s government and delegates from two umbrella groups of rebels who fought now-ousted President Omar al-Bashir’s forces in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
The talks were launched on Monday, but the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) told journalists it would pull out unless the government withdrew from an area in the Nuba mountains.
The group said that for the past 10 days, government forces had kept up attacks on its territory despite an unofficial ceasefire.
Late on Wednesday, the chief of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced a permanent ceasefire in the three conflict zones.
“General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has announced a permanent ceasefire to show that the government is committed to peace,” the sovereign council said in a statement.
“The ceasefire is valid from the signing of this declaration.”
An unofficial ceasefire had been in place since Bashir was ousted by the army in April in a palace coup following nationwide protests against his decades-old rule.
A joint civilian-military sovereign council is now ruling Sudan and is tasked with overseeing the country’s transition to civilian rule as demanded by protesters.
A new transitional government is in place to carry out the daily affairs of the country, and has been leading the peace talks in South Sudan’s capital with the rebel groups.
Bloodshed in the three states has left hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions displaced, in turn severely impacting the country’s economy.
Dhieu Mathok, a member of Juba’s mediation team, told reporters they were investigating the SPLM-N’s complaints but would not stop peace talks.
“We are still investigating whether there are really attacks in those areas or not, but this will not stop the peace process,” Mathok said.
Mohammed Hassan, a spokesman for Khartoum’s delegation, attributed the fighting to an attack by herders on local merchants.
“The government regrets and condemns in the strongest terms these unfortunate events that keep happening in the area and in other parts of the country,” he said.
“We also regret that these events took place at a time when people are entering peace negotiations, and the country and the whole region is united for the cause of peace in Sudan.”
Tunisia’s outsider Kais Saied projected to win presidential election
The official results are expected Monday, but news of the projected victory has triggered celebrations
Conservative academic Kais Saied, who is poised to become Tunisia’s next president, on Sunday thanked the “young people for turning a new page” in the country’s history.
“We will try to build a new Tunisia,” he told a gathering of supporters, his family and the press after state media announced his landslide election victory.
“Young people led this campaign, and I am responsible for them.”
In a contest which reflected Tunisia’s shifting post-revolution political landscape, Saied, an independent, scooped almost 77 per cent of the vote, Wataniya television said.
Some 90 per cent of voters aged 18 to 25 voted for Saied, according to polling institute Sigma, while just 49 per cent of people above 60 chose him over his rival, business tycoon and media magnate Nabil Karoui.
The official results are expected Monday, but news of the projected victory triggered celebrations at the retired law professor’s election campaign offices in central Tunis, as fireworks were set off outside and supporters honked car horns.
“I will carry the message” of the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Saied said.
“The law will be applied to all, and first and foremost to me,” he said.
“Everyone made their choice, in complete freedom. Our project is founded on freedom. The era of submission is over. We have just entered a new era in history,” he said.
“The state will be built on a foundation of trust. Trust between the leader and the people, and in a framework of respect for the rules,” he added.
Saied, meanwhile, underlined his support for the Palestinian cause, which he said he considered a foreign policy priority.
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