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Activists: Sudan police arrest 14 academics in protests

CAIRO  — Sudan’s security forces arrested more than a dozen academics who joined a protest outside Khartoum University in the Sudanese capital, calling for embattled President Omar al-Bashir to step down, activists said Wednesday.

Sudan has been gripped by nationwide protests since Dec. 19. The demonstrations, which show no sign of abating, were triggered by rising prices and shortages but quickly turned to calls for autocratic President Omar al-Bashir to step down.

The activists said police arrested at least 14 academics while they protested Tuesday. Their whereabouts remained unknown, they added.

The detained academics were added to opposition leaders, doctors, journalists, lawyers and students along with some 800 protesters who have been arrested in two months of protests.

Last month, authorities ordered the release of all protesters who were detained since Dec. 19. But Human Rights Watch said Monday only 186 were reported let go and that video evidence showed signs of torture on released detainees.

The activists spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. A government spokesman did not immediately respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment.

A network of Sudanese journalists said Wednesday that police forces detained for hours at least 17 journalists who joined a protest on Tuesday in front of Information Ministry in Khartoum. ‘

It said in a statement the detained journalists were released late Tuesday.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered Tuesday in different Sudanese cities including the capital, Khartoum. Video footage showed demonstrators gathering at intersections chanting “just fall,” and calling for a “people’s revolution.”

The protests, called for by professional and opposition groups, are part of a wave of unrest over a failing economy that has transformed into demands for the resignation of the autocratic al-Bashir, an Islamist who has run the country for nearly 30 years but brought little improvement to his people.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of independent professional unions, which organizes the protests, called for another march on Thursday to the presidential palace to demand the ouster of al-Bashir.

The country’s intelligence and security officials, along with Bashir, insist that the rallies are the work of what they describe as “evil” foreign powers, and have vowed to stop them.

Al-Bashir, who seized power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989, insists that only elections, which he intends to take part in, will result in change.

Wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court, al-Bashir has repeatedly warned that the protests could plunge Sudan into the kind of chaos convulsing other countries in the region.

Activists say at least 57 people have been killed in the protests. An estimated 2,000 protesters have also since been wounded, many shot in the eye with birdshot and some losing limbs from live ammunition, according to activists, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The government’s latest tally stands at 30 killed and about 400 wounded, but these figures have not been updated in days.


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