Sudanese security forces use tear gas to disperse protesters

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese security forces used tear gas on Tuesday to disperse hundreds of lawyers pushing for the release of activists detained during recent anti-government protests, witnesses said.

FILE PHOTO: Cars block a road as Sudanese demonstrators stage an anti-government protests in Khartoum, Sudan January 25, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo

The demonstration outside the supreme court building in Khartoum was one of several staged by members of various professions, including teachers, doctors and pharmacists, following a call by the Sudanese Professionals Association to join the protests that began in December.

The demonstrations, often involving hundreds of people, have shaken the country of some 40 million people. They were sparked by rising food prices and cash shortages and have since turned against President Omar al-Bashir who has been in office for nearly 30 years.

Witnesses said more than 200 lawyers tried to deliver a petition to the head of the judiciary demanding the release of activists detained during the protests.

Security forces attacked the lawyers with tear gas, forcing them to disperse. There were no reports of casualties.

The incident happened a week after Sudan’s information ministry said the country’s security chief had ordered the release of detained demonstrators.

There were no reports of any mass release of detainees.

In central Khartoum, security forces used tear gas against hundreds of alumni students gathered at the main headquarters of Khartoum University, and at a separate gathering of school teachers who had staged a vigil outside the education ministry in Khartoum’s northern section.

There were no reports of casualties.

Witnesses also said that doctors at several government hospitals organized protest vigils, but there were no reports of any force being used against them.

Bashir has shown no sign of being prepared to concede any authority and has blamed the protests on foreign agents, challenging his rivals to seek power through the ballot box.

Prime Minister Moataz Moussa struck a conciliatory tone last week, however, when he said that demonstrators’ calls for better living conditions were “legitimate”.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court over charges, which he denies, of masterminding genocide in the Darfur region. He has been lobbying to have Sudan removed from a list of countries, along with Syria, Iran and North Korea, that Washington considers state sponsors of terrorism.

That listing has deterred the influx of investment and financial aid Sudan was hoping for when the United States lifted sanctions in 2017, economists say.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Writing by Sami Aboudi, Editing by Ed Osmond