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Medical Treatment Sought for Senior Opposition Prisoners in Sudan


Amnesty International has launched an appeal for ailing prisoners who were secretly detained in Sudan with no access to medical aid. Members of the group include senior politicians and lawyers and at least one is over 70 years old. All but one of the prisoners are reported to be in isolation. Arjun Kohli in Nairobi has more.

Exactly one month ago, Mubarak al-Fadil was arrested, accused of plotting to overthrow the government.

Fadil, head of the opposition Umma Party for Renewal and Reform in Sudan, was arrested with more than 30 others, including Ali Mahmoud Hassanein, a prominent lawyer in Sudan.

The human rights group Amnesty International, says Fadil needs medical attention. His family has launched an urgent appeal for medical access.

Sudan researcher for Amnesty International, Elizabeth Hodgkin, spoke to VOA about their situation.

"According to international standards detainees are supposed to have prompt and regular access to doctors," she said. "As far as we know, when Mohammed Al Fadl spoke to his son, he had had no access to a doctor and we know they were not allowed to take medicine and we know where they were kept. Where they were kept is in the part of Kober prison, which is the main prison in northern Khartoum but there is a special section which is under the national security and they are kept in this special section where it is very difficult to gain any access to if not impossible. Cut off from the outside world."

A list of charges include conspiracy, plotting to overthrow the government and spying, could mean a death sentence under Sudanese law.

In September 2004 another large group of opposition members led were arrested for similar crimes, but Hodgkin says many of the civilians were released.

According to Amnesty, the prominent position of the accused would make the death sentence unlikely. Human rights groups have not heard if they will be permitted to monitor the trials.

Habab, Mubarak al-Fadil's daughter, visited her father on Tuesday.

"He's lost weight," al-Fadil said. "He's lost weight obviously. He still hasn't had an endoscopy or anything. They wanted to do it at their hospital there, near Kober, I don't know if it is part of Kober, but the doctor is on holiday. So they should allow him to see his own doctor, or any other doctor. He really needs to have medical investigations because if they are thinking to wait until the end and then he'll see a doctor, it's been a month already."

Hodgkin says that while in detention some may have been tortured.

"We obviously have worries about the length of time they were incommunicado detention because of the 33 accused, for many of them we had no names even of them, and one problem about incommunicado detention is that it facilitates torture. It said that 24 of them confessed," Hodgkin said.

Sima Samar, the head of the United Nations office of human rights in Sudan, said earlier this month she was concerned about the arrests of opposition politicians and urged more transparency from the government on the affair.

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