Sudan emergency court sentences six protesters to jail

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A Sudanese court Sunday sentenced six protesters to six months in jail for violating a state of emergency imposed to quell anti-government protests, police said, as demonstrators rallied in Khartoum.

The authorities have set up special emergency courts to investigate violations of a nationwide state of emergency imposed by President Omar al-Bashir on February 22 to end widespread demonstrations that erupted against his iron-fisted rule in December.

The six protesters were sentenced by an emergency court in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman, police spokesman General Hashim Abdelrahim told AFP.

“The six were accused of causing disturbances,” Abdelrahim said without offering details.

He said each of the six were also fined 1,500 Sudanese pounds ($31).

Abdelrahim did not say when the protesters had been detained.

Bashir had initially announced that any violations to the state of emergency, especially participating in banned rallies, were punishable with a jail term of up to 10 years.

But on Thursday he issued an order that the maximum jail term for such violation would now be six months.

On Sunday scores of protesters took to the streets in areas of Khartoum and Omdurman, but security forces dispersed them, witnesses and police said.

“Police dispersed the illegal gatherings without causing any injuries,” Abdelrahim said.

“Police detained some and cases have been filed against them according to the emergency law for violating public safety,” Abdelrahim said.

Witnesses said security forces used tear gas against protesters in some rallies.

Protests initially erupted on December 19 in the central town of Atbara in response to a government decision to triple the price of bread.

They swiftly escalated into nationwide demonstrations against Bashir’s rule of three decades, with protesters calling on him to step down.

Protesters accuse his administration of mismanaging the economy that has led to soaring food prices as well as shortages of fuel and foreign currency.

Bashir has remained defiant, imposing the state of emergency after an initial crackdown failed to quell the protests.

The veteran leader had initially declared a year-long state of emergency, but parliament cut it to six months.

Officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence, but Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 51 including children and medics.

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