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Sudan breaks up gathering of opposition-linked lawyers

August 1, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Security forces raided the headquarters of the Sudanese Bar Union (SBU) on Wednesday and violently broke up a Ramadan breakfast gathering of opposition-affiliated lawyers, arresting and injuring a number of them.

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Sudanese lawyers hold a banner calling for freedom of expression and peaceful demonstration during a protest against the arrest of demonstrators outside the governor’s house in the South Darfur capital of Nyala on July 16, 2012.

Eye witnesses told Sudan Tribune that the raid followed an altercation between the opposition group known as the Democratic Lawyers Gathering (DLG) and SBU Chairman Abdel Rahman Al-Khalifa, who is a member of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), when the latter refused to allow them to hold their annual Ramadan breakfast at SBU headquarters.

The situation escalated when DLG members insisted on their right to hold the breakfast and entered the building despite the objections of the ruling party member.

After breakfast, prominent opposition lawyer and member of the Bath Party, Wagdi Salih, started giving a speech in which he condemned the behaviour of the SBU chairman, who tried to prevent them from entering the building. Salih further called for a vote of no-confidence on the SBU leadership accusing it of failing to protect the rights of the union members.

The speaker was suddenly interrupted when plain-clothed security agents carrying batons entered the scene and started ordering the crowd to vacate the premises while police forces arrived to surround the building.

A confrontation ensued when some opposition lawyers tried to defend themselves and chanted slogans denouncing the regime. The clashes resulted in the injury of 12 lawyers, most notably Wagdi Salih, Salih Mahmoud, Nasr Al-Din Abdel Ati, Salwa Saeed and Ghada Idriss.

An unknown number of lawyers were also arrested in the raid.

The DLG is the same group of lawyers that staged a protest on 16 July and submitted a memo to President Omer Al-Bashir and the Justice Minister denouncing price rises and what they described as the brutality and violent crackdown with which security authorities dealt with citizens who took to the streets demonstrating against the regime’s policies.

The lawyers’ protest came in response to continuing suppression by security authorities of demonstrations by citizens against price rises and alleged corruption of the NCP.

Wednesday’s events also follow the killing of eight protesters including many teenagers by police forces during price protests in Nyala town in the western region of Darfur.

(ST)