KHARTOUM — Thirty-five people appeared in court on Thursday accused of vandalism during a week of deadly anti-government riots in Sudan, a lawyer said, the first legal proceedings reported in the capital linked to the violence.
Sudanese authorities have said they arrested 700 people during the worst unrest in central Sudan in years, triggered by cuts to subsidies on cooking oil and fuel that doubled pump prices overnight.
Rights groups and some diplomats said up to 150 people died when security services opened fire on crowds last week. The government put the death toll at 34 and denied shooting any protesters which it dismissed as “vandals.”
A group of 35 people appeared before a judge in Khartoum's poor Haj Youssef district, defense lawyer Mutassim al-Haj told Reuters. Among the defendants were five people from South Sudan, three women and eight teenagers, he said.
“None of them was actually arrested during the demonstrations but only on the following day,” Haj added.
The judge offered to release the group on a bail of 20,000 Sudanese pounds ($2,500) but they could not raise the funds, he said.
Human rights activist have accused plain-clothed security agents of arresting scores of youths in house searches after the protests erupted.
Protests have largely ended in Khartoum amid tight security.
Around 45 women gathered in front of the security headquarters in the capital on Thursday to demand the release of all prisoners, a witness said.
The government cut subsidies to ease a financial crunch aggravated by the secession of oil-producing South Sudan in 2011.
The South's departure deprived Khartoum of three-quarters of the crude output it relied on for state revenues and foreign currency needed to import food.
The protests were much larger than demonstrations last year against corruption, inflation and earlier fuel subsidy cuts. They are still much smaller than the masses who ousted autocratic rulers in Egypt and Tunisia in Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.
Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, came to power in a bloodless coup in 1989 and has so far seen off rebellions, U.S. trade sanctions, an economic crisis, an attempted coup last year and an indictment from the International Criminal Court on charges of masterminding war crimes in the western region of Darfur.