* Congress Party leader arrested after critical speech
* Blamed government for recent surge of violence in Darfur
* Charges include undermining constitutional order
* Umma Party leader arrested mid-May on similar charges
(Adds violence over water shortage protest)
By Khalid Abdel Aziz
KHARTOUM, June 8 Sudanese authorities on Sunday
arrested the head of Sudan's opposition Congress Party, a party
official said, weeks after the arrest of another opposition
leader, Sadiq al-Mahdi, sparked violent anti-government
The arrests are likely to hurt national dialogue talks that
were called by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in order to ease
tension among Sudan's political parties ahead of parliamentary
and presidential polls due next year.
Opposition parties in Sudan have voiced concern about the
government's mismanagement of Darfur, accusing it of killing
civilians during a recent surge of violence in the region.
Western diplomats and Sudanese security sources estimate
that thousands have been killed in clashes between militias
supporting and opposing the government in Darfur since March.
"The police forces detained our party head Ibrahim al-Sheikh
for participating in a political lecture yesterday night," the
Congress Party's General Secretary Abdel Kayoum Awad told
Awad said the prosecution has charged Sheikh with
undermining the constitutional order by spreading "harmful lies"
after he blamed the government for the recent violence in Darfur
in a speech on Saturday.
Sudan has been witnessing a wave of small yet frequent youth
protests since March. On Sunday, one man was killed in clashes
between the police and protesters upset by a long cut of water
supplies from their Mayo district, south of Khartoum.
Law and order has collapsed in much of the huge Darfur
region, where mainly African tribes took up arms in 2003 against
the Arab-led government in Khartoum, which they accused of
discriminating against them.
The conflict killed 300,000 people and displaced around two
million, according to the United Nations. Bashir has a pending
arrest warrant against him from the International Criminal Court
on charges of masterminding genocide and other war crimes in
The charge of undermining the constitutional order, which
Mahdi has also been accused of, can lead to the death penalty, a
government official said.
Mahdi, a former prime minister, was arrested on May 17. He
was also charged with insulting the state security forces by
accusing them of participating in the Darfur unrest.
In response to the arrest, Mahdi's Umma party withdrew from
the national dialogue talks.
Since then hundreds of Sudanese have gathered for protests
after Friday prayers, calling for Mahdi's release and chanting
"The people want to change the regime" and "Freedom, peace and
(Reporting by Khalid Abdel Aziz in Khartoum, Omar Fahmy in
Cairo and Writing by Yasmine Saleh in Cairo; Editing by Raissa
Kasolowsky and Stephen Powell)