Nine professors held in swoop on Khartoum campus: lawyer

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Nine Sudanese university professors, many of them activists, have been detained during a campus raid, hours after President Omar al-Bashir spoke of political dialogue and reform, a lawyer said Tuesday.

“We can confirm that nine professors were arrested yesterday (Monday) from inside Ahfad University” in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, Nabeel Adeeb, a prominent lawyer and head of the Sudanese Human Rights Monitoring Association, told AFP.

He said they were picked up while meeting inside the campus in the evening.

“They were taken to an unknown location,” Adeeb said, adding that two of the detainees are ill and another is the mother of a baby.

“We are calling for their immediate release, otherwise authorities must allow their lawyer to meet them and doctors to examine them.”

Activists say prisoners arrested by Sudan’s state security bureau are routinely held without an initial charge and without people immediately knowing their whereabouts.

In a speech opening a new session of parliament on Monday, Bashir talked of reform and political dialogue after the most serious split in years within his ruling party.

He hinted to parliament that press censorship would ease now that the country had “returned to normal” after September protests in which dozens died and hundreds were detained.

The government initially said it had detained 700 “criminals” after the protests but authorities then said most had been released.

Fifty-eight would be brought to court, Bashir said.

The protests, sparked by the government cut in fuel subsidies, were the worst urban unrest in Bashir’s 24-year rule.

Security forces are believed to have killed more than 200 demonstrators, many of whom were shot in the head or chest, Amnesty International said.

Authorities reported 60 to 70 deaths, and say they had to intervene when crowds turned violent, attacking petrol stations and police.

More than 30 prominent reformers within Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party issued a public memorandum to the president in which they criticized the regime’s protest crackdown.

They announced last weekend that they would form a new party after the NCP sought to expel three leaders of their reform group.

In their memorandum, the reformers said the crackdown betrayed the government’s Islamic foundations.

They also sought an independent probe of the shooting of civilians, and a reversal of the fuel price increases.

They called for “professionals” to take over economic policy, an end to press censorship, and respect for constitutional freedoms including the right to peaceful assembly.

Analysts have said the NCP is not serious about considering divergent opinions.

They say the spontaneous demonstrations pointed to an urgent need for reform by a government grappling with wars, dissension within its own ranks, economic crisis and international isolation.

But Bashir told parliament that reform “is a daily process for us”.

He said he wanted a review of all state institutions, from sports to social and political, but he did not elaborate.

He repeated a call first made in April for a broad dialogue with all political parties, even with armed rebel groups.

Sudan ranks near the bottom of international indexes of corruption, human development and press freedom.