May 25, 2010 / 6:40 PM / in 9 years

Sudan charges opposition journalist with terrorism

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan has charged a detained opposition journalist with terrorism and espionage and he has been tortured in custody, his lawyers said on Tuesday.

U.S.-based rights group Human Rights Watch condemned the arrest earlier this month of opposition Islamist Hassan al-Turabi and four staff of his al-Rai al-Shaab paper, mouthpiece of Turabi’s Popular Congress Party (PCP).

The rights group urged Khartoum to end repression of opposition politicians and press launched after an April election returned President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) to power.

PCP lawyer Mohamed al-Alim said the deputy editor in chief of the paper, Abu Zur al-Amin, had been charged with terrorism, espionage and destabilizing the constitutional system.

Al-Alim said the other three newspaper staff had not been charged so far and Turabi “has not even been questioned.”

The government has accused Turabi of directing rebel attacks in the strife-ridden Darfur region.

Al-Alim said al-Amin had been tortured in jail. The PCP sent Reuters a picture of al-Amin’s back, with a large bruise which his brother said was the result of security forces beating him. Al-Amin remains isolated in police custody.

A security source denied any torture had occurred. “This absolutely does not happen,” the source said.

WORKERS FOR U.S. CHARITY FREED

“The National Congress Party is trying to silence political opponents, the media, and activists to stifle criticism and dissent and consolidate control,” said Rona Peligal, acting Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“This repression sends a clear message that, instead of strengthening democracy, the April multi-party elections merely emboldened the party in its abuse.”

Sudan also reimposed censorship on two papers last week.

Much of the northern opposition boycotted the April elections, undermining their credibility.

Those who participated rejected the results and accused the NCP of rigging the vote. International observers said the vote did not meet international standards and expressed concern at intimidation, especially in the south.

Bashir is the only sitting head of state wanted for war crimes — in Darfur — by the International Criminal Court, but he rejects its authority.

On Tuesday, two Sudanese aid workers for the U.S. Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse were released in Darfur after being kidnapped with their American colleague a week ago.

The American woman from California was still being held but was in good health, a source close to the kidnappers said.

“I saw her and she looked fine,” the source, who declined to be named, told Reuters from South Darfur state.

Kidnappings of foreign nationals in Darfur, mostly by young armed men demanding ransoms, began last year after Bashir’s ICC arrest warrant was issued. The abductions have severely restricted the movement of aid agencies in the region.

Reporting by Opheera McDoom; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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