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Sudan: Military and protest leaders ‘dispute’ over leadership of transitional council

The military council is still insisting that the president of the sovereign council should be from the military

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Sudan uprising: Protesters agree new talks with military, ends civil disobedience
Spokesman of the Sudan's Transitional Military Council Lieutenant General Shamseddine Kabbashi (L) and Sudanese protest leader, Madani Abbas Madani during a press conference in Khartoum on May 20, 2019. (Photo by Ebrahim Hamid / AFP)

A “dispute” over who should lead Sudan’s new governing body was the key sticking point in overnight talks between army rulers and protesters, a protest leader said Monday.

The latest negotiations were launched Sunday evening following international pressure to install a civilian-led administration -a key demand of thousands of demonstrators who have spent weeks camped outside Khartoum’s army headquarters.

Hours of meetings into the early hours of Monday ended without agreement, but the ruling military council announced the talks would resume Monday evening.

A prominent protest leader who was involved in the Sunday night talks said they had revolved around who would lead the new governing body.

“The dispute over the presidency of the sovereign council and participation between the civilian and military still exists,” said Satea al-Haj, from the umbrella protest movement the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

The Alliance, which led the nationwide campaign that toppled longtime autocrat, Omar al-Bashir last month, has been at loggerheads with the military over the make-up of the new body, set to rule Sudan for a three-year transitional period.

“The military council is still insisting that the president of the sovereign council should be from the military,” he said.

“They are justifying it by saying the country faces security threats.”

The protest movement insists that the head of the body should be a civilian and that the council should have a majority of civilian members, a demand backed by major world powers, al-Haj said.

“The international community and the African Union will not accept to deal with a military government,” he added.

“The people (of Sudan) also want a civilian government.” 

However, he said Sunday night’s talks were “positive” overall, and the ruling military council has said they will resume at 9:00 PM (19:00 GMT).

Military council spokesman, Lieutenant General Shamseddine Kabbashi said the “structure of the sovereign authority” had been discussed during the night and that a “final deal” would be agreed later on Monday.

Previous rounds of talks have seen the generals and protest leaders agree on key issues including a three-year transition period and the creation of a 300-member parliament dominated by lawmakers from the protesters’ umbrella group.

The new governing council is expected to form a transitional civilian government, which would then prepare for the first post-Bashir election following the three-year transitional period.

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Sudanese police tear-gas marchers during rally for ‘martyrs’

“The rallies are a tribute to those honourable martyrs of the December revolution.” -SPA

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Sudanese police tear-gas marchers during rally for 'martyrs'
Sudanese protesters chant slogans and wave national flags as they march in the capital Khartoum's Green Square on July 18, 2019, as they honour comrades killed in the months-long protest movement that has rocked the country. (Photo by - / AFP)

Sudanese police fired tear gas Thursday as hundreds of demonstrators marched on a prominent Khartoum square to honour comrades killed in the months-long protest movement that has rocked the country.

The rallies came a day after protest leaders and army rulers inked a power-sharing deal to form a joint civilian-military body tasked with installing a civilian administration — the main demand of demonstrators.

Witnesses said men and women waving Sudanese flags marched from several parts of the capital towards the Green Yard, a prominent square.

As they marched, the demonstrators shouted slogans that have been the rallying cries of the uprising that led to the toppling in April of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir: “Civilian rule, civilian rule!” and “Freedom, peace, justice!”

The marches were held in response to calls from a key protest group.

“The rallies are a tribute to those honourable martyrs of the December revolution,” the Sudanese Professionals Association said in a statement.

Riot police fired tear gas to disperse a rally at a key bus station in downtown Khartoum, witnesses said.

“Protesters who were dispersed are trying to mobilise again and continue with the rally. It’s like a game of cat and mouse between them,” a witness told reporters from the capital’s Jackson bus station.

One onlooker said that many who arrived at the Green Square were in tears as they chanted slogans remembering those killed in the protests.

The SPA spearheaded the initial campaign which erupted in  December against the government of Bashir over its decision to triple the price of bread.

Those protests swiftly escalated into a nationwide movement that led to the army’s overthrow of Bashir in April.

But protesters continued taking to the streets against the military council that took power in his place.

More than 200 people been killed since December in protest-related violence, according to doctors close to the movement.

Tensions between the generals and protesters surged after a June 3 raid against a weeks-long Khartoum sit-in that left dozens of demonstrators dead.

On Wednesday the protesters and generals finally agreed a deal paving the way to a transitional civilian administration that would govern for just over three years.

The talks, however, are set to continue Friday as the two sides push to resolve remaining issues.

A western troika of the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway, which have been involved in mediating the talks, welcomed the signing of the deal and called for the formation of a civilian-led administration.

“We encourage the parties to quickly conclude the parallel constitutional agreement and form the civilian-led transitional government, which the Sudanese people have courageously and peacefully demanded since December 2018,” they said in a joint statement.

“The troika looks forward to engaging a civilian-led transitional government as it works to achieve the Sudanese people’s aspirations for responsive governance, peace, justice, and development.”

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Moroccan court to pass verdict on suspected killers of Scandinavian hikers

The prosecution has called for jail terms of between 15 years and life for the 21 other defendants on trial since May 2

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Moroccan court to pass verdict on suspected killers of Scandinavian hikers
Suspected killer of two Scandinavian hikers, arriving for his trial at a Moroccan court in Sale near the capital Rabat. Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland had their throats slit before they were beheaded in December at an isolated site in the High Atlas mountains. (Photo by - / AFP)

Verdicts are expected Thursday for 24 suspected jihadists accused over the murder of two Scandinavian women beheaded while on a hiking trip in Morocco.

Winding up an 11-week-long trial in an anti-terrorist court in Sale, near the capital Rabat, the defendants are to make their final statements before judges withdraw.

Verdicts are expected to be announced later the same day in the case that has shocked the country.

“We expect sentences that match the cruelty of the crime,” lawyer Khaled El Fataoui, speaking for the family of Danish victim Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, told reporters.

Helle Petersen, her mother, in a letter read out in court last week, said:

“The most just thing would be to give these beasts the death penalty they deserve.”

Prosecutors have already called for the death penalty for the three main suspects behind the “bloodthirsty” killings in the High Atlas mountains last December.

The maximum sentence was sought for 25-year-old suspected ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud and two radicalised Moroccans, although Morocco has had a de facto freeze on executions since 1993.

Petitions on social media have likewise called for their execution.

The three admitted to killing Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland, whose family has declined to take part in the trial.

The prosecution has called for jail terms of between 15 years and life for the 21 other defendants on trial since May 2.

READ: Suspects in murder of Scandinavian hikers begins in Morocco

A life sentence has been sought for Abderrahim Khayali, a 33-year-old plumber, who had accompanied the three alleged assailants but left the scene before the murders.

The prosecution called for 20 years in jail for Kevin Zoller Guervos, a Spanish-Swiss convert to Islam.

The only non-Moroccan in the group, Guervos is accused of having taught the main suspects how to use an encrypted messaging service and to use weapons.

His lawyer, Saad Sahli, said Guervos had cut all ties with the other suspects “once he knew they had extremist ideas” more than 18 months ago. 

All but three of those on trial had said they were supporters of the Islamic State group, according to the prosecution, although IS itself has never claimed responsibility for the murders.

The three killers of the women were “bloodthirsty monsters”, the prosecution said, pointing out that an autopsy report had found 23 injuries on Jespersen’s decapitated body and seven on that of Ueland.

Ejjoud, an underground imam, had confessed at a previous hearing to beheading one of the women and Younes Ouaziyad, a 27-year-old carpenter, the other, while Rachid Afatti, 33, had filmed the murders on his mobile phone.

The defence team called for “mitigating circumstances on account of their precarious social conditions and psychological disequilibrium”.

Coming from modest backgrounds, with a “very low” level of education, the defendants lived for the most part in low-income areas of Marrakesh.

Jespersen’s lawyers have accused authorities of having failed to monitor the activities of some of the suspects before the murders.

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Sudan’s doctor-protesters accuse paramilitary unit of torturing civilians to death

The doctors’ committee alleged a total of six civilians have died over the past three days at the hands of the RSF

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Sudan's doctor-protesters accuse paramilitary unit of torturing civilians to death
Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo known as Himediti, deputy head of Sudan's ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) and commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitaries. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Paramilitary men beat and tortured to death a civilian in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, a doctors committee linked to the country’s protest movement said Tuesday.

The civilian died on Monday in El-Daen, in East Darfur state, after members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) clashed with youths accused of stealing mobile phones, the committee said on its Facebook page.

“Members from Al-Janjaweed (RSF) militia beat and tortured a number of youths…on allegations that the youths had stolen mobile phones,” it said.

“One youth passed away due to torture by Al-Janjaweed,” it said, referring to the RSF which has its origins in the militia that fought ethnic African rebels in Darfur during a civil war that broke out in 2003.

READ: Sudan’s protest leaders and military reach landmark agreement on governing council

Witnesses contacted by telephone backed up the account of the doctors’ committee.

Two witnesses said an RSF unit arrested five youths — accusing them of stealing mobile phones from their base — and took them outside town, where they tortured them and abandoned them on the streets.

One of the victims allegedly died, they said.

After the victim was buried, town residents converged on the RSF base and torched it, while other RSF personnel arrested the unit responsible, the two witnesses said.

An RSF spokesman was unavailable for comment.

The doctors’ committee alleged a total of six civilians have died over the past three days at the hands of the RSF, including four members of a family run over by a vehicle driven by a paramilitary unit in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum.

Generals ‘protect militias’ –

The sixth person was killed by gunfire in El-Souki, in the south-eastern state of Sinnar, as residents protested against the RSF, demanding they leave town, according to the committee and witnesses.

“The continuation of the barbarity and tampering with civilians’ safety daily by Janjaweed (RSF) militias, coupled with not holding them accountable under any law or code of ethics, prove that the Transitional Military Council protects these militias,” the committee said.

READ: Sudan protests: Military kills nine demonstrators during Khartoum sit-in

The protest movement blamed the deaths in El-Souki and El-Daen on the security apparatus and the military council which has ruled Sudan since the ouster in April of longtime President Omar al-Bashir following months of anti-regime demonstrations.

“We hold the security authorities responsible for those killed in El-Daen and El-Souki,” Ismail al-Taj, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association told reporters in Khartoum.

The SPA spearheaded protests against Bashir that broke out in December.

“We demand an independent investigation to identify those who committed these heinous crimes against citizens,” Taj said, adding it was the responsibility of the military council to protect civilians during protests and rallies.

On Monday, scores of protesters demonstrated in parts of the capital, including at night, against the killing in El-Souki.

Protesters and rights groups accuse RSF personnel of having carried out a brutal raid on a protest camp outside military headquarters in Khartoum on June 3 that left dozens dead and hundreds wounded.

READ: Demonstrators killed in Sudan as military breaks sit-in

RSF commander, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy chief of Sudan’s military council, has portrayed the allegations as part of an attempt to distort the image of his paramilitary force.

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