London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Leader of the Popular Congress Party [PCP] Dr. Hassan al-Turabi, aged 78, was arrested for the fifth time since 2000 by the Sudanese government late on Saturday night. The PCP Secretary of Foreign Affairs Bashir Adam Rahma informed Asharq Al-Awsat that his party is still waiting for an explanation from the Sudanese government for the arrest of his party’s leader. The Sudanese authorities also shut down the PCP affiliated “Rai al-Shaab” [People’s Viewpoint] newspaper, and arrested 4 senior journalists. The opposition Juba Declaration parties condemned al-Turabi’s arrest, describing it as a violation against freedom and democratic transformation.
In statements to Asharq Al-Awsat, Rahma condemned the Sudanese government’s arrest of al-Turabi, describing this as breaching public freedoms and contravening democratic transformation. He said “While we are not surprised by the actions of the National Congress Party [NCP] it is unfortunate that this arrest comes at a time that they are talking about their attainment of 90 percent of Sudanese votes, but they are confiscating freedoms.”
He added that the ruling NCP is suffering from internal problems between the governmental and military poles of the party, and that “the information that we receive says that there are problems between Vice President Ali Osman Taha and his assistant Nafie Ali Nafie with regards attempts to remove the former in favor of the latter.” Rahma also pointed to the escalating war in Darfur, the tribal conflicts – which he said the government was behind – and the entrance of North Kurdufan as a new party in the war.
He said “the political, military, and economic situation in the country has become unstable, and every time that problems increase [they] decrease freedoms, especially the freedoms of the PCP because they fear it more than any other political force.”
Rahma also revealed that Hassan al-Turabi had planned to carry out an unofficial visit to Germany on 17 May, and he refused to rule out this unofficial visit as being the reason behind his arrest. Rahma also denied that the PCP has anything to do with the intensification of operations in Darfur, and he told Asharq Al-Awsat “everything must be expected from the regime because of its reliance on its grip on security, and it could constrict [freedoms] in order to address its continuous crises.”
Al-Turabi supporters and family members disclosed that the PCP leader was arrested late on Saturday night by Sudanese security forces, and that he may have been taken to Cooper prison in Khartoum. The PCP affiliated “Rai al-Shaab” newspaper was also shut down, with security forces confiscating all copies of the newspaper and arresting 4 senior journalists.
As for why al-Turabi was arrested, reports indicate that Sudanese security forces have said that this may be due to his alleged links to the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality (JEM) movement which has clashed with government forces over the past week. Al-Turabi denies any links to the movement.
Al-Turabi previously enjoyed close ties with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir; however following a bitter power struggle between 1999 and 2000 al-Turabi defected from the NCP to form his own party. Al-Turabi has been arrested a total of 5 times since then.
Editor of the PCP affiliated “Rai al-Shaab” newspaper Yasin Omar al-Imam issued a press statement stating that security forces raided the newspaper’s offices on Saturday night, confiscating all copies of the newspaper and stopping any further printing, in addition to arresting 4 senior journalists, the most prominent of whom was deputy editor Abuzerr Ali al-Amin. The statement also said that security forces continue to occupy the “Rai al-Shaab” offices, and that journalists cannot enter without first speaking with the official body that supervises all media publications in Sudan. The statement criticized the shutting down of the newspaper, describing it as being unconstitutional and illegal, and a violation of democratic transformation and the freedom of the press.
For its part, the Juba Declaration parties – including the PCP – condemned al-Turabi’s arrest as a “violation against freedoms and democratic transformation and the constitution.” The statement also said that the assumption that Sudan is moving in a better direction following the elections that is held by regional and international powers is flawed and incorrect, for the current climate which sees the freezing of the mechanisms for democratic transformation will result in the worst environment possible for the forthcoming referendum on southern secession, which will make it easy to block this.