Several Sudanese political prisoners released | Africa | DW | 02.04.2013
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Several Sudanese political prisoners released

Sudan has freed at least six political prisoners, a day after President Omar al-Bashir ordered the release of all such detainees. The move comes as Sudan attempts to hash out a new constitution with rebels.

At least six political prisoners were released from Kober prison in Khartoum at dawn on Tuesday, one day after Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, announced he would release all the country's political prisoners.

"Today, we announce a decision to free all the political prisoners and renew our commitment to all political powers about dialogue," Bashir said in a speech opening a new parliamentary session on Monday.

"We confirm we will continue our communication with all political and social powers without excluding anyone, including those who are armed, for a national dialogue which will bring a solution to all issues."

The prisoners, and opposition members, had been held since January after being accused of meeting with a group of Sudanese rebels in Uganda who were planning to overthrow the president.

Farouk Abu Issa, head of the National Consensus Forces grouping of the main opposition parties, confirmed the release of seven prisoners, to the Reuters news agency, however another report said only six had been released.

The amnesty comes after Sudan and South Sudan agreed in early March to end hostilities and resume cross-border oil flows. They also agreed to implement a detailed timeline for crucial economic and security pacts in the hope of easing tensions between the two countries.

President Bashir's Monday announcement was cautiously welcomed by the opposition as tensions with South Sudan begin to ease.

Rights groups and the opposition have accused the government of holding an unspecified number of dissidents since the security services cracked down on small protests against austerity measures unveiled by Bashir last year.

The president's announcement came a week after Vice President Ali Osman Taha invited rebel groups to help draft a new constitution following the south's succession in July 2011. The new constitution would replace a 2005 document based on a peace agreement which ended the 23-year civil war that led to the south's separation.

Bashir, who has been in power since 1989, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity, genocide and other serious offenses connected to the Dafur conflict.

hc,jlw/pfd (Reuters, AFP)

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