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Sudanese PM's detention an affront to democracy

The Club de Madrid and its Members - 96 democratic former heads of state and of government from over 60 countries - strongly condemn yesterday's arrest of Sudanese opposition leader, Sadiq Al Mahdi, an unflinching champion of democracy and a distinguished and respected member of our organisation and our mission of fostering democratic values and leadership in his country and around the world.

Sadiq Al Mahdi, prime minister of Sudan in the country's last elected civilian government and ousted by then-Colonel Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 1989, is the head of Sudan's leading opposition party, the Umma Party.

The public prosecutor recently opened an investigation into Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) accusations that Al Mahdi had insulted and distorted the image of state security forces in comments made about the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) at a news conference last week. Charges of threatening public peace, undermining the prestige of the state and hindering the constitutional system were later added. These accusations have possible penalties ranging from life imprisonment to death. They could also seriously damage efforts to ease political tensions before the 2015 parliamentary and presidential elections.

In a statement, Al Mahdi has stood by his call for justice over concerns with the activities of the RSF in the face of alarming levels of violence in Darfur this year. He claimed as false the allegations sent by NISS to the media.

In response to Al Mahdi's arrest, the Umma Party has cancelled its participation in national dialogue talks and called on supporters to protest against the detention.

No one should ever be jailed for expressing his/her opinion or venting criticism. Moreover, it is outrageous to put someone on trial for expressing his/her opinion with a jail/death sentence looming.

The Club de Madrid and its Mmmbers call upon President al-Bashir to immediately release Sadiq Al Mahdi, take the measures necessary to put an end to rebel offensives, criminal activity and inter-communal fighting over access to resources in the Darfur region and move towards the effective start of a much needed, peaceful and open national dialogue process between the Umma and the National Congress parties, not only to restore law and order but to create the conditions and climate necessary for free and fair elections to be held in 2015.

Club de Madrid


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