Sudan jails opposition leader for protest

Mariam al-Mahdi was sentenced to a week in prison by an emergency court
Mariam al-Mahdi, Sudanese deputy leader of the Umma Party led by her father, Sadiq speaks during a press conference after the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) freed her without charge after being held for a month on September 9, 2014 in the capital Khartoum. Security agents arrested her August 12 when she arrived at Khartoum airport after talks in Paris between Umma and the Sudan Revolutionary Front, an alliance of anti-regime movements from Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. AFP PHOTO/ASHRAF SHAZLY (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

A Sudanese emergency court Sunday sentenced an opposition leader to a week in jail as police detained several people intent on marching on parliament to protest a state of emergency.

Mariam al-Mahdi — daughter of opposition Umma Party chief and ex-prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi – was sentenced to a week in prison by an emergency court, Mohamed al-Mahdi, another of the party’s leaders, told AFP.

Mariam Al-Mahdi and her sister Rabah were among those arrested earlier on Sunday.

Protest organisers had called for a march to challenge the state of emergency, imposed nationwide by President Omar al-Bashir on February 22.

Bashir’s move came after an initial crackdown on demonstrations that have taken place against his iron-fisted rule since December failed to rein in the protest movement.

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The president has ordered a slew of tough measures to quell the demonstrations, including banning all unauthorised rallies and setting up special emergency courts to probe transgressions.

Sunday’s procession was to start at the Umma Party’s offices in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman.

“As some of our leaders came out of the party office to lead the march, security agents arrested them,” said Mohamed al-Mahdi, who is not connected to the former premier’s family.

Bashir swept to power in an 1989 Islamist-backed coup that had toppled the then government of Sadiq al-Mahdi.

Alongside the two daughters of the former premier, “five other leaders of our party have also been taken away by security agents,” Mohamed al-Mahdi said.

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“We are still awaiting court verdicts for Rabah and the other five”, he added.

He said riot police fired tear gas at protesters who had gathered outside the party office.

“Police dispersed the protesters before they could stage the march,” a witness said.

“Protesters have now launched demonstrations in some areas of Omdurman. Many of them have been arrested,” the witness added.

Protests initially broke out on December 19 after a government decision to triple the price of bread.

The demonstrations escalated into nationwide rallies against Bashir’s rule.

Anger has mounted for years over soaring inflation and an acute foreign currency shortage.

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Officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence so far, while Human Rights Watch says the death toll is at least 51, including medics and children.

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