US Eases Sudan Sanctions as Khartoum Arrests 2 Opposition Leaders

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The United States on Tuesday eased sanctions against Sudan by allowing Americans to send some communications hardware and software, including smartphones, to the country, officials said.

Meanwhile, the North African country has pushed further its crackdown on journalists and opposition figures.

The US measure, which took effect on Wednesday, also covered computers and related accessories, the US Treasury Department said.

Washington and Sudan have strained diplomatic relations, and the United States has for years imposed sanctions on Sudan over a range of grievances, including on its human rights record and internal conflicts, particularly in Darfur.

Last week, the United States hit out at Sudan for failing to allow a UN probe of an alleged mass rape in Darfur by Khartoum's troops.

Meanwhile, Sudan's prosecutor on Tuesday called for two detained political leaders to face a raft of charges, some of which could incur the death penalty, their defense team said.

Farouk Abu Issa and Amin Makki Madani were arrested in Khartoum on December 6 after returning from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

The prosecutor submitted its case recommending six charges against the two to a judge in Khartoum, spokesman for the detainees' defense Moaz Hadra said.

The judge will also hear the prosecution case in a court on Monday February 23, before deciding whether to press the charges against the opposition figures.

The charges were founding and running a "terrorist organization," as well as "undermining the constitutional order, inciting war, inciting hatred against the state and publishing false reports," Hadra said.

All charges, except publishing false reports, carry the death sentence as the maximum penalty.

Abu Issa and Madani were arrested after returning from Ethiopia where they had signed the agreement uniting political parties,

Abu Issa signed for a grouping of opposition parties he leads and Madani signed for civil society groups.

The opposition accord came amid preparations in Sudan for April elections that are widely expected to extend President Omar al-Bashir's 25 years in power.

He seized power in a 1989 coup, but won a 2010 election that was criticized by observers for failing to meet international standards and was marred by opposition boycotts.

Meanwhile, Sudanese security authorities on Wednesday confiscated the copies of four private dailies after their print, in a fresh round of pressure on media.

"The security agencies confiscated the paper's copies from the printing press without giving any reasons," Editor-in-Chief of al-Sudani newspaper Diaa Belal, said.

The same happened with the copies of al-Meghar al-Siyasi, al-Intibaha and al-Taghyeer dailies, journalists with the three papers confirmed.

On Monday, Sudanese security officers seized the print runs of 13 newspapers in one of the most sweeping crackdowns on the press in recent years, a media watchdog said.

On Tuesday, National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) agents seized all copies of al-Tayar newspaper from the printer in the early hours.

Sudan ranked near bottom, at 172 out of 180, in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2014 World Press Freedom Index, published on February 10.

(AFP, Anadolu, Al-Akhbar)

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