Sudan opposition leader freed

July 1, 2010 12:00 am

, KHARTOUM, Jul 1 – Islamist Sudanese opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi, who has been released from jail, said late Wednesday he was arrested "without cause" in a crackdown by authorities in May.

"I did not expect to be arrested," Turabi, 78, told AFP in his home in Khartoum\’s Manshia district.

"Of course I am always against the dictatorship and if I make a statement, I take a strong attitude," he said.

But he added, "I was surprised because a – the election campaign was over for a while; and – they represented themselves with a new image as an elected government."

"They arrested me without cause," he said after his 45-day detention for criticising Sudan\’s April elections which returned President Omar al-Bashir to power.

Turabi\’s personal secretary Awad Babikir earlier said: "He has been freed. He has come home."

Sudan\’s first multi-party elections since 1986 — in which parliamentary and state representatives as well as the president were elected — were marred by complaints from the opposition and foreign poll monitors, as well as by accusations of fraud.

Observers from the European Union and the Carter Centre — headed by former US president Jimmy Carter — said after the five days of polling ended on April 15 that the election had failed to reach international standards.

Turabi, Bashir\’s mentor-turned-foe, had been arrested several times since he fell out with the president.

Asked whether his arrest may have been related to the publication by the Ray al-Shaab newspaper, which is close to his political party, of articles questioning Bashir\’s popularity and mentioning a plant in a Khartoum suburb producing weapons for Iran, Turabi said: "It might, but I am not the editor in chief, the manager".

In prison Turabi was "isolated completely".

Four Ray al-Shaab journalists have been accused of terrorism in the case and are still being held at Kober prison where Turabi was detained.

Human rights organisations have condemned the arrests which made headlines in Africa\’s largest nations. Several opposition members and journalists called for their release last week during a protest at Turabi\’s party headquarters.

Turabi\’s release came on the day Bashir marked the 21st anniversary of his military coup in which Turabi played a major role.

Beshir is wanted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the conflict in Sudan\’s Darfur region.

"Suffering has become a way of life for eight million people in Darfur," Turabi said.


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