Khartoum court accuses U.S. resident of terrorism

KHARTOUM Wed Jul 25, 2012 1:27pm EDT

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A Sudanese court on Wednesday charged two men including a U.S. resident of forming a terrorist organization, in the first trial of people arrested during a spate of anti-government protests that broke out more than a month ago.

Security forces arrested Radwan Daoud, whose origins are in Sudan's western Darfur region, and Ahmed Ali Mahjoub about two weeks ago at a house in a Khartoum suburb.

Daoud has legal permanent resident status in the United States, according to the U.S. embassy in Sudan.

Sudanese authorities said they found political materials calling for demonstrations and regime change in the house.

In the first session of their trial, the two were charged with "forming a terrorist organization, working to change the regime by force, criminal conspiracy, criminal participation and inciting unrest", defense lawyer Muatasim Taj El-Ser said.

The crimes carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison, he said. The judge dismissed charges against 10 other people and ordered their release.

Sudan avoided the wave of popular protests that unseated rulers in neighboring Libya and Egypt last year, but austerity measures aimed at containing an economic crisis led to small demonstrations calling for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's government to resign.

Activists led by students have sought to use public anger over rising food prices to build a broader movement to topple the government.

Sudanese activists estimate that as many as 2,000 people have been arrested since the protests broke out in June, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a joint report this month.

The crisis is rooted largely in the secession of oil-producing South Sudan a year ago. The new nation took about three-quarters of Sudan's crude output, leaving Sudan with a budget gap, high inflation and a depreciating currency.

The two sides are meeting in Addis Ababa to discuss issues including how much the landlocked South should pay to export oil through pipelines and other infrastructure in Sudan - fees which could ease Sudan's crisis - but have so far failed to agree.

(This story is corrected after U.S. embassy said man not a U.S. citizen)

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Andrew Roche and Mark Heinrich)

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