March 21, 2009 (KHARTOUM) — A Sudanese opposition leader who was recently freed said that the Arab Gulf state of Qatar intervened to secure his release from detention.
The head of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) Hassan Al-Turabi told the Egyptian Al-Shurooq newspaper said that the Qatari Emir convinced Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir to release him during his visit to Khartoum last month.
Turabi said he was “surprised” when he was let go but afterwards he realized that it was a result of international pressure on Khartoum.
The Islamist leader was sent to jail over his statements to foreign media in which urged Bashir to surrender himself to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Bashir stands accused by the ICC of seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which include murder, rape and torture.
However Turabi in the interview with the newspaper today reiterated his call to Bashir to turn himself in to The Hague-based court.
“If the president wants to be a hero likes he claim in his rhetoric in the microphones during speeches and rallies then he should go to court to prove his heroism” he said.
“However he will not turn himself in but others may do that to succeed him in power and there are many who are waiting for him to disappear through death or extradition” the opposition leader added.
Asked about the mass rallies in support of the Sudanese president, Turabi claimed that they are “artificial”.
“Those people who came out in support of Bashir will come out again when he is removed to celebrate his arrest. People in Khartoum, Darfur or the South rallied involuntarily and under pressure because he [Bashir] will kill them if they don’t receive him with this hospitality” he said.
“They were threatened that they will be denied water electricity and closing of schools and hospitals” he added.
The Sudanese president has toured Darfur twice since the indictment and appeared in mass rallies in Khartoum.
Turabi accused Egypt of viewing Sudan as “its colony” and said that they are engaged in a hidden competition with Qatar on the issues facing Sudan.
“Egypt does not want to allow any country to jump over its head and bypass its sovereignty” he said.
Qatar hosted peace talks between Khartoum and Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) which led to signing a goodwill agreement and pledging to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the six-year conflict in the western Sudan region of Darfur.
Some observers have pointed out that Egypt is uncomfortable with the Qatari role as they consider Sudan their own backyard.
The Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit had made statements in the past stressing that the new Darfur initiative is an Arab one and not owned by one single country.