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Sudan arrests opposition leader over fuel price speech

Sudan strongman Bashir
Sudan strongman Bashir

Khartoum, Sudan | AFP |

Sudanese security agents arrested a senior opposition politician on Friday for giving a speech that criticised a government decision to raise fuel prices, his party said.

Agents from the all-powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) arrested Khaled Omar, deputy chief of the Sudanese Congress party, at his home in Khartoum.

“He was taken by security agents after he had returned from delivering a speech which criticised the government’s latest economic decisions,” a party statement said.

Late on Thursday, Sudan hiked the prices of petrol and diesel by about 30 percent in an attempt to help stabilise the country’s battered economy.

Fuel price rises have been a sensitive issue in Sudan, where the economy has been badly hit since 2011 when South Sudan gained independence and took nearly three quarters of the formerly united country’s oil reserves with it.

In September 2013, the government slashed fuel subsidies, sparking street protests as retail prices soared by more than 60 percent.

In an ensuing crackdown by security forces, dozens of protesters were killed.

Sudanese security agents often detain opposition politicians and activists for criticising government policies or President Omar al-Bashir’s rule.

At least 17 members of the Sudanese Congress party had been detained in August 2015 for criticising Bashir, while four members of Reform Now Party were also detained for similar reasons a month later.

Bashir, who came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges related to the conflict in Darfur.

In its statement, the Sudanese Congress vowed to continue its campaign against Bashir’s government “until the regime has been overthrown”.

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