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Africa Sudan communist leader arrested after bread protest

SUDANESE security forces detained the leader of the country’s Communist Party in the small hours of this morning.

Muhammad Mukhtar al-Khatieb was arrested in a raid on his home at 3am — a day after a protest in the capital Khartoum organised by the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) against austerity measures that raised the price of bread.

SCP politburo member Fathi Alfadl said that more than 50 political leaders, campaigners and journalists had been detained since yesterday’s demonstration.

They included fellow politburo and central committee member Siddig Yousif and Youssef Hussein, along with human rights campaigner Amal Habani and journalist Mamoun Eltilib.

“We call on all fraternal communist and workers’ parties to demand the immediate release of comrade al-Khatieb and other political detainees,” Mr Alfadl said.

He demanded the authorities “respect their legal rights and allow their legal advisers to meet them, to allow doctors to provide the medical care the detainees need.”

Online news site the Sudan Tribune reported that dozens of people were beaten and arrested by police during yesterday’s march which they claimed was attended by hundreds of people.

However the Middle East Eye reported that thousands attended the protest.

It was the latest in two weeks of demonstrations over President Omar al-Bashir’s government’s acceptance of demands by the International Monetary Fund to cut wheat subsidies and devalue the Sudanese pound.

The measures were agreed in December’s budget. Now the Sudanese pound trades at 18 to the US dollar, down from six, causing bread prices to soar as a result.  

Last week Khartoum state authorities denied the SCP’s request for permission to march to the governor’s office to deliver a statement in protest.

But the party went ahead with yesterday’s march to the presidential palace.

Witness Ahmed Abdul Gadir said: “More than 5,000 people have defiantly gathered in Khartoum’s downtown streets, chanting anti-government slogans.”

SCP spokesman Ali Saeed told Middle East Eye yesterday: “We have reported that more than 60 protesters have been arrested and other political leaders were detained and the detention campaign is still ongoing.”

He said the protests would continue “against the economic suffering of our people, against the war and against the human rights violations.”

The Communist Party of Britain wrote to the Sudanese ambassador today calling for the release of those arrested and, in the meantime, that they be granted access to legal and medical services.

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