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Sudan Releases Islamist Opposition Leader from House Arrest - 2003-10-13

Sudan has released Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi who spent more than two years under house arrest. The former ally of President Omar al-Bashir had held key positions in the government, until falling out with the president in 1999.

The Sudanese government released prominent Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi, once a staunch ally of President Omar al-Bashir, until the president had him arrested in early 2001.

Speaking to the Arabic language station Al Jezeera soon after his release, Mr. al-Turabi attributed his freedom to internal and international pressure He said international and internal pressures had led to a balance of power in Sudan that would lead to greater freedoms. He says he hopes his release was the beginning of continued power and freedoms for Sudanese citizens.

Mr. al-Turabi, a conservative Islamic leader with a wide following inside, and outside, Sudan was the country's speaker of parliament until 1999 when President al-Bashir dissolved the legislature.

Mr. al-Turabi was detained in February 2001 after announcing his party, the Popular National Congress, signed a peace deal with Sudan's main rebel group fighting for autonomy in the south, the Sudan People's Liberation Army. Three months later he was put under house arrest, charged with crimes against the state.

Reports from Sudan said several other political detainees were also pardoned Monday.

Sudan's government has moved in recent months toward political reform, releasing political prisoners, ending censorship of newspapers, and lifting a travel ban on some opposition figures.

It has also made progress towards ending its war with the rebels, predicting a final peace agreement soon.