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Following presidential decree, Sudanese prisoners begin to be released

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 2nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Under a sweeping presidential decree, Sudanese authorities have freed the first seven political prisoners under an amnesty plan. The six men and a woman were all members of the country's opposition political alliance, according to Farouk Abu Issa, who heads the coalition of more than 20 parties.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said all political prisoners will be released shortly. The majority of the recently released prisoners had been held for nearly three months.

"It is a step forward but we are waiting for many other steps," Issa told journalists.

Literally "hundreds" of prisoners across the country, including in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states where rebels have been fighting government forces for almost two years, remain behind bars.

The six men walked free to the embrace of relatives waiting outside Kober Prison in the capital, Khartoum while the woman was released at a different location.

Issa accused authorities of holding some of the prisoners in solitary confinement, while three had been kept at security service detention center, he said.

Opening a new session of parliament, al-Bashir said all political prisoners would be freed as the government seeks a broad political dialogue. It was a move welcomed by the opposition as tensions ease with South Sudan.

"We confirm we will continue our communication with all political and social powers without excluding anyone, including those who are armed, for a national dialogue which will bring a solution to all the issues," Bashir said.

One of the liberated prisoners, Youssif al-Koda who heads the Islamic Centrist Party, told journalists that he is ready for Bashir's dialogue if it is "serious."

"I didn't do anything against the constitution," Koda said through a translator.

Both Sudan and South Sudan agreed in early March to end hostilities and resume cross-border oil flows. They also agreed to implement a detailed timeline for crucial economic and security pacts in the hope of easing tensions between the two countries.

President Bashir's announcement was cautiously welcomed by the opposition as tensions with South Sudan begin to ease.

Rights groups and the opposition have accused the government of holding an unspecified number of dissidents after the security services cracked down on small protests against austerity measures unveiled by Bashir last year.

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