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Sudan's opposition rejects judicial immunity for military rulers

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan’s main protest group is opposed to granting military rulers “absolute” immunity against possible prosecution for violence against protesters, a group spokesman said on Tuesday, speaking just ahead of a meeting with the rulers.

Differences over the issue of immunity have been a major sticking point holding up the signing of a power-sharing deal agreed this month between the Transitional Military Council and the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition.

Ismail al-Taj, a leader in the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), one of the main members of the FFC, said members of the coalition had agreed that any immunity should be restricted.

“The immunity proposed by the military council in the draft constitutional document is an absolute immunity,” Taj told a news conference in Khartoum.

“All the members of the FFC have agreed on the issue of immunity and to restrict it procedurally,” he told reporters, adding that the issue would be presented at a meeting later on Tuesday with the military council.

The power-sharing deal is meant to be the way forward for a transition in Sudan after military leaders ousted former President Omar al-Bashir in April following weeks of protests against him. The protests continued after Bashir left, with the opposition demanding that the military council that took over cede power.

Opposition groups accuse the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary organization linked to the military council, of responsibility for the death of more than 125 protesters during a raid on a protest sit-in in Khartoum on June 3 and in subsequent attacks.

The military council has confirmed at least 61 deaths in the raid. It has blamed officers for the violence and promised to bring them to justice.

But it has denied that members of the military council were behind the violence.

Taj said the protesters were still demanding an independent investigation into the bloodshed, which for a time stalled efforts to reach a deal between the FFC and the military council.

He said he expected “a great breakthrough” during the talks on Tuesday, which he said would concentrate on opposition notes regarding the proposed constitutional document.

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association, which spearheaded the protests against Bashir, also called on the military rulers to cancel a decree that extends the state of emergency for three months.

Reporting by Nadine Awadallah in Khartoum; Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Writing by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Frances Kerry