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18 Jan 2011 15:18
Sudanese security forces arrested Sudan’s top Islamist opposition leader overnight after he called for a Tunisia-style uprising in the country, family members said on Tuesday.
Hassan Turabi and his bodyguard were taken into custody around midnight on Monday, according to Turabi’s wife, Wessal al-Mahdi.
She said the bodyguard, who was released early on Tuesday, had bruises on his face, and claimed he had been beaten while in custody. Turabi, meanwhile, remains in detention.
Turabi’s son, Siddiq, said around eight other members of Turabi’s Islamic Popular Congress Party also were arrested.
There was no official comment on the detentions from Sudanese authorities.
But the semiofficial Sudan Media Center quoted an unnamed high ranking security official as saying Turbai, who is the archrival of President Omar al-Bashir, and his party has been providing financial and political support to rebel movements in the troubled Darfur region.
The official claimed that confiscated documents and confessions from seven rebels in detention indicate Turabi and his party have played a role in supervising military operations in Darfur against government troops.
Turabi is popular in Darfur, and he is believed to be the mentor of the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement, the most powerful Darfur rebel groups.
‘We will use rallies and slogans’
The elder Turabi recently has spoken out against al-Bashir’s government and has called for a popular revolt similar to the one in Tunisia that toppled that country’s authoritarian president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
Echoing her husband’s position, Turabi’s wife said the PCP is “against the government and we want to bring it down by any means”.
“They will use violence and we will use rallies and slogans. This is what all the opposition forces in Sudan will do,” she said.
A recent hike in the price of oil and basic commodities has sparked protests by university students and calls for the resignation of local officials.
Turabi’s challenge to al-Bashir’s government come at a tumultuous time for Sudan. Voters in the country’s south on Saturday wrapped up a weeklong referendum on independence that is widely expected to see southern Sudan split off into a new country.
Al-Bashir, who is wanted on an international indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the western region of Darfur, also faces rebellions in the west and east, as well as internal political opposition.
Turabi was the driving force behind the 1989 military coup that brought al-Bashir to power before. The two set up an Islamist-style government, until they fell out in 1999, and Turabi set up his own party.
He was the only Sudanese politician who has dared say al-Bashir should surrender to an international court.
Turabi has been arrested several times in the past, most recently in May when he was held for seven weeks. His son Siddiq said the most recent arrest is a warning to the rest of the opposition.
“This is a message to the rest of the political opposition forces to shut up,” he said.—Sapa-AP
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