April 16, 2019 / 3:18 PM / in 6 days

Sudan's interim military council fires three top public prosecutors

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The head of Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) has fired the country’s three highest-ranking public prosecutors, the council said on Tuesday, after protesters demanded an overhaul of the judiciary as a step toward civilian government.

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), a group spearheading the popular revolt, has issued a long list of demands for wholesale change to end repression and ease an economic crisis after the military deposed veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir last week.

In a statement, the TMC said council chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan had sacked chief prosecutor Omar Ahmed Mohamed Abdelsalam and deputy public prosecutor Hesham Othman Ibrahim Saleh, as well as head of public prosecutions Amer Ibrahim Majid.

Alwaleed Sayed Ahmed Mahmoud was appointed to carry out Abdelsalam’s duties, it said. Mahmoud’s background was not immediately known.

In its first news conference on Monday, the SPA - which led months of protests that led to Bashir’s overthrow after 30 years in power - called for the TMC to be dissolved in favor of an interim civilian ruling council with military representatives.

It also called for Abdelsalam’s removal along with the chief of the judiciary and his deputies, and added that mass protests would not cease until the demands were met. The judiciary chief was not mentioned in the TMC statement.

On Tuesday, a Reuters witness said hundreds of University of Khartoum professors carrying signs reading “civilian transitional government” and “democracy” marched to a sit-in protest outside the Defense Ministry that began on April 6.

Academics are among the most respected people in Sudanese society, adding powerful symbolism to the march.

A delegation from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates met with TMC chief Burhan in Khartoum on Tuesday, according to a council statement. During the meeting, Burhan “praised the distinguished relationship between Sudan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE”, according to the statement.

As chief of Sudan’s ground forces, Burhan oversaw Sudanese troops fighting in the Saudi-led war in Yemen and has close ties to senior Gulf military officials.

The UAE, a leading member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, was quick to welcome Burhan’s appointment and said it would look to accelerate aid to Sudan. Shortly after Burhan’s nomination, Saudi Arabia said it would provide wheat, fuel and medicine to Sudan.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also called Burhan on Tuesday to offer his backing, a spokesman for Sisi said.

The spokesman said in a statement that Sisi had affirmed “Egypt’s full support for the security and stability of Sudan and its support for the will and choices of the Sudanese people”.

The TMC confirmed the phone call in a statement and said Sisi was expected to visit Sudan in the coming days.

TMC member Jalal al-Deen al-Sheikh met African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat in Addis Ababa and gave him a letter from Burhan addressing the situation in Sudan and inviting Mahamat to visit, the state news agency SUNA said.

It quoted Sheikh as saying Mahamat had expressed “understanding” for the decisions the TMC had taken so far.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council on Monday called for the TMC to transfer power to a transitional civilian-led authority within 15 days or risk Sudan being suspended from the AU.

On Monday, Sheikh told a news conference in Addis Ababa, where the African Union is based, that the TMC was already in the process of picking a prime minister for civilian rule - ahead of elections promised within two years.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; writing by Yousef Saba and Lena Masri; editing by Mark Heinrich, Susan Thomas and G Crosse

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