U.S. Congressman calls to release political detainees in Sudan

 

March 18, 2019

 

By Sudan Tribune

 

KHARTOUM – The visiting U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis who is visiting Khartoum nowadays has called on the Sudanese authorities to release all the political detainees.

Bilirakis, a Republican representative, met on Saturday and Sunday with journalists and civil society, business, opposition, recently imprisoned human rights leaders and government officials in Khartoum.

He discussed the three-month political crisis the country is experiencing as a result of the ongoing protests that continue to threaten the political stability in Sudan.

In a statement he issued on Sunday, the visiting Congressman said he raised the detention of a U.S. citizen that he did not name.

“I made clear the United States government’s concern over the incarceration of an American citizen and called for his release and for the release of all political prisoners being held in an attempt to stifle freedom of association and expression,” he stressed.

Commenting on his meetings, the Congressman said all the parties admit that a negotiated transition is the best option to end the political crisis.

“Any negotiated peace must adhere closely to the wishes of the people of Sudan and protect human rights as they are universally accepted. What remains is each side to present realistic starting points in order to begin that dialogue,” he said.

The Sudanese opposition groups that signed the Freedom and Change Declaration call on President Omer al-Bashir to step down rejecting any dialogue with his regime, The government for its part calls on the opposition to discuss reforms based on the outcome of the national dialogue conference held in October 2016.

REGIME MUST LEAVE POWER

The U.S. congressman met with the leader of the opposition Sudanese Congress Party (SCoP Omer al-Digair, who raised human rights violations and confiscation of freedoms.

Al-Digair told Sudan Tribune after the meeting on Sunday evening he spoke to the Congressman about the continued arbitrary detention of dozens of political figures and civil society activists, suspension or confiscation of independent newspapers.

Also, he accused the government of using the emergency law to confiscate fundamental freedoms and banning the activity of political forces and civil society organizations as well as trying of demonstrators who exercise their legitimate right to demand change regime peacefully.

The ongoing protests in the streets of Khartoum are “an expression of the will of the Sudanese, who are demanding the departure of the regime in favour of a transitional authority leading the country towards peace and democratic transition,” the SCoP leader further told the US congressman who is supportive for President Trump.

Al-Digair noted that the Freedom and Change Declaration which is endorsed by the major opposition forces identified the requirements and arrangements for the peaceful transition.

The opposition leader said he emphasized during his meeting with Bilirakis that the best for the international and regional community to stand with the wishes of the Sudanese people “because it remains the source of legitimacy of governance, while the regimes are fleeting.”

THE EMERGENCY JUSTIFIED

The congressional delegation held a series of meetings with government and parliament officials, including Justice Minister Mohamed Ahmed Salim, Foreign Minister El-Dirdeiry Mohamed Ahmed and representatives of government-allied parties.

The Minister of Justice briefed the congressman on the justifications of the declaration of emergency and the legal guarantees for a fair trial of those accused of demonstrations, the right to appeal and the use of a lawyer, and stressed the government’s keenness to “preserve the dignity and humanity of detainees.”

The Director of the National Intelligence and Security Services on Saturday told the visiting lawmaker that the recent presidential decisions on the emergency are necessitated by the need to maintain national security.

For his part, Foreign Minister Dirdeiry welcomed the visit of the U.S. delegation to Sudan and the interest of Congress in Sudan. He also praised Bilirakis’s keenness to find out the facts himself and expressed the hope that the rest of the members of Congress will follow suit.

The foreign minister pointed out that there is no discrimination on religious basis in Sudan and there are no “residential areas for specific religions alone, and that Sudan does not know attacks on places of worship.”

According to the foreign ministry, the meeting also dealt with the dialogue between Sudan and the United States on the normalization of bilateral relations and Sudan’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Bilirakis said he saw the economic difficulties and political tensions, and that all the Sudanese parties have realized that a “new political direction is desired”.
“I will bring a commitment back home to do what I can to support the Sudanese people,” he said.

Regarding the Sudan removal from the terror list, he pointed to the need to engage talks with U.S. victims of terror attacks on compensation, pointing that U.S. courts have condemned Sudan in cases including ’’the 1998 Embassy Bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole”.

“My constituents feel this is an important issue to resolve and so I will continue to seek just compensation for the victims,” said the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 12th congressional.

Published Date: March 17, 2019

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