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Sudan "arrested 1000" in crackdown on anti-regime demos

July 1, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Police and security forces have arrested about 1000 people during two weeks of sustained crackdown on anti-regime protests in Sudan, an activist group said on Sunday.

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Police violence during anti-government protests in the capital Khartoum last year (AFP)

Sudanese authorities use terms like “rioters” and “saboteurs” to refer to hundreds of citizens who have been protesting for the past two weeks on the streets of the capital Khartoum and other regional towns after the government moved to implement a set of austerity measures including cuts on fuel subsidies.

Activists say the protests are aiming to end the rule of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), who they accuse of a long list of failures including rampant corruption and misguided economic policies.

Large numbers of anti-riot police units and plainclothes security agents of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) used teargas, batons and rubber bullets to stamp out demonstrations that broke out following Friday prayer in the capital and 10 regional towns as part of what activists called "elbow-licking Friday” in reference to a gibe that some NCP officials use to indicate the impossibility of overthrowing their regime.

Agence France Press (AFP) quoted an official from the Organization for Defense of Rights and Freedoms as saying that about 1000 people have been arrested countrywide while hundreds were hurt, many by teargas, since the protests first erupted on 16 June.

"The figure of those arrested before yesterday (Friday) was about 1,000 in the whole country," the official stated, while also alleging that many of them are still being held in unknown NISS detention facilities known as ’Ghost Houses’. "They don’t tell you where they are. You are not even allowed to ask," he said.

Sudan says police used "minimum force" to respond to "rioting by small groups".

Other activist groups including Girifna have reported the arrest of hundreds of protesters and said some of them have been tortured. Among those detained is prominent blogger Usamah Mohammed who remains incommunicado since he was arrested on 22 July.

Security forces have also targeted journalists covering the unrest. Last week the authorities deported Salma El Wardany, an Egyptian female correspondent for Bloomberg News.

Human rights groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) issued statements this month calling on Sudan to end the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations and release all detainees.

According to HRW, Sudan security forces have arrested scores of protesters, opposition members, and journalists, beaten people in detention, used rubber bullets and even live ammunition to break up protests.

(ST)