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Sudan Drops Charges Against Two Medical Aid Officials

An international medical aid agency says the Sudanese government has dropped charges against two of its officials over a report of rape in Darfur. The country director of Doctors Without Borders' Dutch office, and its regional coordinator, are now free.

The two were arrested late last month in Sudan and charged with publishing false information, undermining Sudanese society, and spying in connection with a report the agency produced about rape in the war-torn region of Darfur.

The Sudanese government dropped charges against the two on Sunday.

A spokeswoman at Doctors Without Borders' Dutch office, Annelies Candigk, tells VOA the reasons for dropping the charges are unclear. "I do not know for sure. It is a little bit vague about that," she said. "They just dropped the charges and did not give much of an [explanation] to us."

VOA could not reach Sudanese government officials for comment. One news agency report quoted a Doctors Without Borders' official as saying the foreign affairs ministry told him that the charges were being dropped because of the good work his agency is doing in Sudan.

The agency's Dutch office released a statement lauding the move and saying it is eager to resume its activities in Darfur.

Ms. Candigk says the two officials will be back in the field soon. "They will come to Holland for a few days, and then will go back to Sudan and go back to work as soon as possible," she said. "But first they want to meet their families."

Earlier this year, the medical aid agency released a report, titled "The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur", which described about 500 rape cases in the war-torn region.

An official with the Dutch office had earlier told VOA that Sudanese authorities put pressure on the agency to disclose confidential medical information related to those cases, which likely led to the two arrests.

Most women interviewed by the agency reported that they had been raped primarily by Sudanese soldiers or militiamen. The Sudanese government has denied that its soldiers engage in rape, and the report did not specify whether the militias included those from rebel groups.

Doctors Without Borders has about 180 international and several-thousand national staff working in Darfur, and has treated more than 50,000 children for severe malnutrition within the past year.

The Darfur war, which began in 2003, has killed tens of thousands of people and has displaced more than 1.5 million.