by Our Own Correspondent (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 3, Jumada' al-Ula', 1431)
According to family members of Dr. No formal charges were filed nor did they have a warrant for his arrest
Flushed with electoral success in April’s presidential and parliamentary elections, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan has moved against opposition figures. The midnight arrest of Dr. Hassan al-Turabi, leader of the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP) on May 15 was followed a week later by the arrest of Farouk Abu Eissa, 75-year-old leader of the opposition alliance in the former parliament. Both Turabi and Eissa are former ministers, the first having served as justice minister while the latter as foreign minister in earlier administrations.
According to family members of Dr. Turabi, 30 heavily armed soldiers arrived at his home and took him away in the middle of the night. No formal charges were filed nor did they have a warrant for his arrest. He was sent to Kober Prison in Northern Khartoum and placed in solitary confinement. While some members of his family were allowed to visit him two days later, his lawyer has not been given access. No formal charges have been made against Dr. Turabi as this issue of Crescent goes to press; he is 78 years old and suffers from high blood pressure. Dr. Turabi himself described his prison condition as extremely bad and said the temperature hovers around 44 degree Celsius in the scorching summer heat of Sudan. Such poor conditions are adversely affecting his health.
Both Dr. Turabi and Eissa have been vocal critics of the Bashir regime. They both accused the government of massive vote fraud in the April elections in which Bashir’s ruling party, the National Congress, claimed to have won 86% of the vote. Despite claiming such a popular mandate, Bashir sent his soldiers to arrest Dr. Turabi under the Emergency Law. This is the fifth time in nine years that Dr. Turabi, a constitutional law expert, has been arrested. Clearly, the regime fears him immensely, otherwise it would not resort to such heavy-handed tactics.
The security forces also confiscated all of Dr. Turabi’s publications and closed down the premises of Ra’y al Shab, the newspaper owned by his party, the Popular Congress Party. In addition, four senior journalists including the deputy chief editor were also arrested.
Sudan faces immense international pressure over the situation in Darfur and in South Sudan that is due to hold a referendum next year to determine whether it wants to remain part of Sudan or separate from it. Given these grim conditions, Bashir’s actions do not augur well for the future of the country. At a time when he should be making alliances to rally support of all the political figures and parties in the country, he is busy locking them up without charges. Such moves can only undermine Bashir’s precarious position.
He already faces indictment from the International Criminal Court over the killings in Darfur. While these are politically motivated, Bashir is not acting in a manner that would garner sympathy and support for him from those people that believe in fairness and justice. He is providing more ammunition to his enemies to brand him as an autocrat and a dictator. The arrest of Dr. Turabi and Eissa do nothing to prove that Bashir wishes to deal with political opponents in a fair manner. He can hardly expect fairness from the sworn enemies of Islam and Sudan.