Sudan women defy riot police in ‘freedom’ protest

AFP: KHARTOUM — A group of women demonstrated in the Sudanese capital on Sunday to demand the release of dozens of protesters arrested last month, as three journalists were detained in a separate rally.

Around 25 women, among them mothers of those still in custody since anti-government protests on January 30, stood waiting for hours outside the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) building.

Anti-riot police outnumbered the women, who carried pictures of their loved ones, by about five to one.

Two cameramen and an AFP photographer were held for several hours at a nearby protest, organised by journalists seeking the release of arrested colleagues.

The three walked free but had their equipment and identity cards confiscated.

The latest demonstrations took place against a background of a crackdown on opposition activity and followed Friday’s ouster in neighbouring Egypt of president Hosni Mubarak following 18 days of mass protests.

On Thursday, police intercepted the same group of women as they headed for Khartoum’s main security building to deliver a petition to NISS chief Mohammed Atta demanding the detained be formally tried or released.

A spate of localised but vocal protests calling for regime change, civil liberties and an end to soaring price rises erupted in Khartoum and other northern cities at the end of January, organised by students via the Internet.

Police used tear gas and batons to disperse the protesters and made more than 100 arrests.

On February 2, security officials arrested 16 people, including 12 journalists, outside the communist party headquarters, in what Human Rights Watch said was part of a pattern of repression.

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