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Arrest of Opposition Leader Will Have Little Impact on Sudan Politics, Says Activist

Relatives of an influential Sudanese opposition leader say he has been arrested by security officials. Family and staff of Hassan al-Turabi say police arrested him late Wednesday, two days after he called on Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir to surrender to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Turabi Monday called on Mr. Bashir to turn himself over to the ICC to save Sudan from the sanctions and political turmoil that would follow if he continues to defy the court. The ICC is considering whether to issue an arrest warrant for President Bashir over accusations that he orchestrated genocide in Darfur.

Family members of Turabi say security forces also arrested Bashir Adam Rahman, the secretary for international affairs for Turabi's Islamist Popular Congress Party.

Omer Ismail, a Sudanese and policy advisor with the Enough Project, an advocacy organization set up to highlight the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region told VOA Turabi's arrest would have little or no effect on Sudan's political dynamics.

"Yes, he is an intellectual who is influential in terms of his voice, but he doesn't have any support among the people of Sudan that are going to make a difference in terms of opposing the Bashir government. However the question that is obvious here, how many opposition leaders have the same position as Turabi? I would say they are many. If they all have the courage to come out and criticize Bashir the same way and to demand that he is delivered to the ICC, that is the thing that is going to have an impact," he said.

Ismail said there are other people that are more important in bringing about change in Sudan than Turabi.

"If the people in Bashir's government, people Salah Abdallah Gosh (Sudan's national security and intelligence service head), Ali Osman Taha (Sudan's vice president), these are the people who are ruling Khartoum today. If they decided to remove Bashir, that is going to be significant. There is a lot of speculation in terms of the different scenarios if President Bashir were indicted today, what is Sudan going to look like tomorrow? None of these scenarios has Turabi as the main determinant of the future of the country," Ismail said.

Earlier this week, Sudan's security chief Salah Gosh warned that foreigners could be attacked by what he called outlaws if the ICC prosecutes the president. Ismail said the Gosh threat is real.

"The government of Sudan has been saying all along that if Bashir were indicted, they are going to turn Sudan into an ungovernable state. Whether they are going to do that or whether there are people inside the NCP (National Congress Party) who are pragmatists and believe that if Bashir became a burden they are to get rid of him, then they are going to take over when the time comes," Ismail said.

He refuted speculation that the Khartoum government could be orchestrating the latest threats to sabotage Sudan's upcoming elections. Instead Ismail said the Bashir government wants to have the elections as long as it those elections legitimize its hold on power.