Sudan activists face 10-year sentences

Published Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Two alleged anti-regime activists in Sudan face up to 10 years' prison after a judge charged them on Wednesday in a terrorism-linked conspiracy over Arab Spring-style discontent sparked by inflation.

Rudwan Daud and Ahmed Ali each face several accusations but the most serious is involvement with a terrorist or criminal organization, their lawyer Khaled Awad said outside the court.

Journalists were not permitted to enter the hearing room, an AFP reporter said.

The lawyer said Daud and Ali could be jailed between five and 10 years if convicted on the most serious charge.

Daud is an activist with Girifna ("We are fed up"), a non-violent youth movement which, like its counterparts in Syria and elsewhere, has used Twitter and other social media to spread its anti-government message and support street protests.

On June 16 at the University of Khartoum students began protesting high food prices, beginning the longest-running public challenge to the 23-year regime of President Omar al-Bashir.

After Bashir announced austerity measures, including tax hikes and an end to cheap fuel, scattered demonstrations calling for the government's downfall spread around the capital and to other parts of Sudan.

Girifna said on its website that Daud was arrested at his house on July 3 after helping to organize a protest in his Khartoum-area neighborhood.

A police officer testified that Daud and Ali were plotting violence against the state because they were found with written statements against the regime, old tires and a bottle of fuel.

Burning tires is a tactic of some protesters.

Ten other people, including Daud's father and brother, were freed for lack of evidence on Wednesday, the lawyer Awad said.

Daud and Ali are to return to court on Sunday when the defense calls evidence.

Daud was escorted from court by more than 10 armed policemen but raised his cuffed hands to give a victory sign and nodded his head to acknowledge waiting supporters, an AFP reporter said.

Scores of peaceful protesters have been arrested in the demonstrations which have been repeatedly dispersed with excessive force, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a joint statement on July 11.

Many detainees were released after hours or days but others have been held longer and "several have reported harsh treatment, including beatings and sleep-deprivation," the watchdogs said.

A senior official in the ruling National Congress Party described the protests as ridiculously small, linked to opposition political parties and amounting to nothing like the Arab Spring revolts that began in December 2010 against authoritarian rulers in North Africa and the Middle East.

(AFP)

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