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Khartoum Releases Two Opposition Leaders Ahead of April 13 Vote

  • James Butty

FILE - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

FILE - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir Thursday ordered the release from further detention of two senior opposition politicians ahead of Monday’s presidential election.

Farouche Abu Issa and Amin Makki Madani were jailed last December after they signed an agreement to unite all Sudanese opposition groups.

The government accused the pair of “running a terrorist organization and inciting war against the state”.

President Bashir said earlier this year he would consider releasing the two if they apologized.

Information Minister Ahmed Bilal said Amin and Madani were released Thursday after they apologized indirectly and promised never to join any group advocating the overthrow the government by force.

“They actually made an indirect apology, and this was accepted by the president, and they promised not at all to join the opposition or to call for toppling the regime by force or to use the media to humiliate the army,” he said.

Bilal also said the release was a gesture by President Bashir ahead of Monday’s presidential election to improve the environment for a national dialogue.

The European Union is not sending observers to Monday’s election because it believes the poll would not “produce a credible result with legitimacy throughout the country,” said EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini.

Most major opposition political parties are boycotting Monday’s presidential election because they say it will not be free and fair.

Only 15 lesser-known parties, some say the creation of the government, are challenging Bashir.

But Bilal claimed as many as 45 parties are contesting the poll.

“Actually the parties that are participating in this election by far are more than those who participated in the 2010 election. More than 45 parties are participating in this election,” Bilal said.

He denied that many internationally recognized groups, such as the African Union, have refused to send observers.

“The African Union is sending observers; the African Union is not against the election. The Arab League is sending observers. It’s only the European Union that is not sending observers. We don’t understand,” he said.

The EU also said President Bashir failed to implement the genuine national dialogue that the president announced last year.

Opposition figure Hassan Osman Rizik told VOA recently the opposition suspended its participation in the national dialogue because President Bashir failed to release political detainees, or “stop the confiscation of newspapers".

But Bilal said it’s the opposition that has refused to join the national dialogue.

“Actually the president, every here and now he’s talking about the national dialogue and persuading others to join the national dialogue. We spent a whole year talking about this, but the opposition actually they are not going to join. We talked to the rebels outside and they agree to join the national dialogue; and we waited for them for more than two or three months,” he said.

Bilal said Sudan is mandated by the constitution to hold the elections and cannot postpone them because of opposition boycott.