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Sudan: Former top officials released from prison, lawyers say

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country's military chief, had hinted at releasing the five former politicians as a 'trust-building move'
A Sudanese protester takes part in a rally against military rule on the anniversary of previous popular uprisings, in the capital Khartoum, on 6 April 2022

Five former Sudanese officials have been released from prison, lawyers confirmed Wednesday, after being detained on corruption charges earlier this year. 

The released officials, all members of a task force working to dismantle Sudan's former regime, include former Sudanese Sovereign Council member Mohamed al-Faki Suleiman; former cabinet minister Khalid Omar Youssef; Wagdi Saleh, spokesman for the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC); FFC member Taha Othman; and prominent politician Babiker Faisal.

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The lawyers said they are facing charges stemming from their work on the committee and that their cases remain open after their release. 

Authorities have accused the committee of misappropriating funds that it confiscated, but its members have consistently denied these accusations. 

Sudan's military chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, had hinted at releasing the men as a trust-building move, one of several measures demanded by western countries and political parties.

The officials held senior positions in the civilian administration before a military coup on 25 October 2021 ended a civilian-military power-sharing arrangement after the overthrow in 2019 of the long-ruling autocrat, Omar al-Bashir.

The October coup prompted mass protests, during which at least 81 people were killed and more than 2,000 wounded, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors.

The Sovereign Council was a body of civilian politicians and military men set up after Bashir's overthrow to lead a transition to civilian rule. It was dissolved after the October coup, setting back those plans. 

In February, more than 100 detainees, including Youssef and Saleh, participated in a hunger strike to protest against their “unjustified and illegal detention”, the Defence Committee for the Unlawfully Detained and Martyrs of Arbitrary Killings, a Sudanese group, said at the time. 

Tensions have remained high in Sudan since the military power grab. At least 213 people have been killed over the last five days in fighting between Arabs and non-Arabs in the Darfur region, which has seen a spike in deadly violence since October. The latest bouts of fighting have been triggered by disputes mainly over land, livestock and access to water and grazing.

"I am appalled," the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement. "I am concerned that this region continues to see repeated, serious incidents of intercommunal violence, with mass casualties."