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Sudan frees opposition party leader

16 September 2014, 14:29

Khartoum - Sudan has released an opposition leader who was detained for three months after accusing counter-insurgency paramilitaries of abuses against civilians in the Darfur region, his party said on Tuesday.

Sudanese Congress Party chief Ibrahim al-Sheikh was freed late on Monday from a prison in El Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan state, party secretary general Abdelqayum Awad told AFP.

He said Sheikh was "in good health".

The authorities have pledged to free eight other members of the party on Tuesday, Awad said.

Sheikh, a former university professor, was arrested in June after he publicly criticised the actions of the counter-insurgency unit known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and protested over politically motivated arrests.

Political prisoners

The unit is battling rebels in the Darfur region of western Sudan, which has been gripped by war since 2003.

The release of the opposition leader comes after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir held talks with African Union chief mediator Thabo Mbeki last week that included the issue of political prisoners.

Bashir, who seized power in an Islamist-backed coup 25 years ago, appealed in January for a wide-ranging political dialogue that would include ethnic insurgents.

Also read: Sudan opens borders with South

But the arrest soon afterwards of several political figures as well as press censorship raised questions about the regime's commitment to change.

Last week, another senior opposition figure, Umma Party deputy leader Mariam al-Mahdi, said she was freed without charge after a month in detention.



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