[dehai-news] (Reuters): Sudan frees Islamist opposition leader

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Mar 09 2009 - 06:47:40 EST

Sudan frees Islamist opposition leader

Mon Mar 9, 2009 10:24am GMT

By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan released an Islamist opposition leader on Monday,
two months after he was detained for calling on President Omar Hassan
Al-Bashir to surrender to the International Criminal Court.

Hassan al-Turabi, 76, flown to his home in the capital Khartoum in the early
hours without explanation, made clear he had not changed his view that
Bashir should give himself up to the court which issued an arrest warrant
last week.

"Of course, no doubt about it," said Turabi at this home, where scores of
well-wishers had gathered. "The more justice we have...the more we improve
our international relations."

The Hague-based court issued a warrant against Bashir last week to face
charges of orchestrating war crimes in the western Darfur region, where
international experts say almost six years of conflict have killed over
200,000 people.

Turabi, Bashir's close political and religious ally until a split in
1999-2000, had said the president should submit to the court to save Sudan
from sanctions and political turmoil that would follow if he resisted.

Bashir has defied the court and drawn international condemnation for
expelling more than a dozen aid agencies.

Most opposition figures in Sudan have said little about the case or rallied
round the president, describing the charges as a Western and Zionist plot
against Sudan.


Turabi, leader of the Islamist Popular Congress Party and a central figure
in Sudan for decades, was the spiritual mentor behind Bashir's government
when it took power in a 1989 coup.

In the 1990s when Sudan hosted al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Turabi was
widely seen as the driving force behind Khartoum's promotion of militant
Islamist groups.

Turabi told reporters his health was good, although his son Siddig said his
father had lost weight.

Turabi, who said he would consult his party before deciding on his political
future, also criticised Bashir's decision to close 13 foreign and three
local aid groups, which the president had accused of helping the
international court.

"That wasn't fair," Turabi said. "I don't know why they did it...it was
probably an act of anger."

On Sunday, Bashir -- brandishing a sword at a rally in Darfur -- threatened
to expel diplomats and more aid groups.

"We will expel anyone who goes against Sudanese law, whether they are
voluntary organisations, diplomatic missions or security forces," said

Before the expulsions, the United Nations and aid groups were running the
world's largest humanitarian operation in Darfur.

Bashir Adam Rahman, secretary for international affairs in Turabi's party,
was also released, Siddig said.

(Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved


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