US Notes Release of 54 Political Detainees in Sudan

The United States on Thursday noted the release of a group of Sudanese political prisoners, following an order by Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir earlier this week.

“Some 54 political detainees were released from prison by an order of President Bashir the evening of April 10, according to a statement issued by the committee of the detainees’ families,” a State Department official told VOA.

State news agency SUNA reported Bashir’s order is part of an effort to promote “reconciliation, national harmony and peace” weeks after mass arrests were made to suppress anti-government protests.

In January, demonstrations erupted in Sudan over the high price of bread and tough economic conditions. The protests, fueled in part by the opposition Communist Party, led to the arrests of the political prisoners.

The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum expressed its deep concerns in February over “the continued arrests and detentions of hundreds of political leaders, activists and ordinary citizens. Many of whom are being held in inhumane and degrading conditions, and without access to lawyers or family,” the embassy said.

The SUNA report did not say how many prisoners would be released, nor did it identify any of them.

Sudan is grappling with a currency crisis and very high rates of inflation that have fueled unrest, although public demonstrations are effectively banned and routinely quelled by security forces.

Bashir ordered the release of 80 political detainees in February. Opposition groups have said about 50 remain in jail, including prominent politician and Sudanese communist party leader Mohamed Mokhtar al-Khatib.

The United States and European embassies in Sudan had requested that all detainees be released.

Last October, the United States lifted long-standing economic sanctions on the north African country, citing the country’s progress in human rights, after what State Department officials said was “a careful review” of Sudan’s positive actions and a focused, diplomatic effort between the two countries.

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