January 14, 2009 / 9:35 PM / 10 years ago

Sudan detains opposition leader after Bashir remarks

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese security agents arrested an influential opposition leader late on Wednesday, his family said, two days after he called on Sudan’s president to hand himself into the International Criminal Court.

The court’s chief prosecutor asked judges in July to issue an arrest warrant against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, accusing him of orchestrating genocide in Darfur.

Hassan al-Turabi, the first significant political figure to urge Bashir to surrender, was taken from his Khartoum home just after 11 p.m. (2000 GMT) his son Siddig al-Turabi told Reuters.

“He is being arrested now. It may be for interrogation. It might be for long term internment,” he said, adding the security officials had not explained the reason for the arrest.

Turabi was Bashir’s close political and religious ally until they split in a bitter power struggle in 1999-2000.

Since then Turabi has been in and out of jail but was released along with all other political prisoners after a north-south peace deal in 2005.

Most other opposition figures in Sudan have said little about the case or rallied round the president, describing the global court case as a Western and Zionist plot against Sudan.

But Turabi, leader of the Islamist Popular Congress Party, told reporters on Monday Bashir should hand himself in to save Sudan from the sanctions and political turmoil that would follow if he continued to defy the court.

The judges are widely expected to rule on the request for an arrest warrant in the coming weeks.

Bashir and other senior members of his dominant National Congress Party have said they do not recognize the court and have already refused to hand over a government minister and a Darfur militia leader wanted by the court.

Tensions have been building in Khartoum since the ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo made his request.

A number of opposition politicians denounced Turabi’s comments on the ICC in the state Sudan Vision newspaper on Wednesday.

Senior National Congress Party member Mandour el-Mahadi said officials were planning to study Turabi’s comments closely and respond to them “institutionally.”

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