More than 250 held in Sudan crackdown
Khartoum - Sudanese security forces have arrested more than 250 students, activists and opposition figures in recent weeks as part of a renewed crackdown, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
The watchdog said the "recent wave of repression" coincides with increased public outcry over social grievances largely brought on by deteriorating economic conditions and political uncertainty after the secession of South Sudan in July.
It said the arrests happened between September and December at demonstrations, news conferences, political party meetings and private homes.
"Since mid-December 2011, security forces have used unnecessary or excessive force to break up protests at universities across Sudan," the New York-based group said.
"Arrests of activists and opposition figures have also increased in recent weeks".
Scores of students were detained and many hurt on December 22 when police fired tear gas and wielded batons to break up Khartoum University students peacefully supporting people displaced by a dam project, HRW said.
Three days later police entered the campus again, arresting more than 70 students holding a sit-in against the earlier violence, it said, adding that the sit-in continues.
Demonstrations over various issues have been violently dispersed at universities elsewhere in Sudan over the past few weeks, HRW said.
Large numbers of people
Among the political figures being detained is Ibrahim al-Sonosi, a deputy of Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi. Sonosi was arrested on arrival from South Sudan on December 19 "and is being held in an unknown location," HRW said.
Mohammed Hassan Alim Boshi, an outspoken member of the opposition Baath party, has been detained since December 26, HRW added. And Ali Zein al-Abdin Ali Omer, a pro-democracy blogger, was arrested on December 22 and interrogated about his links to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North).
Khartoum declared the party illegal after SPLM-ruled South Sudan broke away in July following a near-unanimous vote that followed decades of civil war.
HRW said "large numbers" of people with suspected links to SPLM-North in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states continue to be arbitrarily detained. The arrests were part of a crackdown that began when fighting broke out between SPLM-N and government forces in the two border states last year.
"Using violence and arrests to repress political speech and silence activists is both illegal and counter-productive," said Daniel Bekele, HRW's Africa director.
"Instead of stifling dissent, Sudanese authorities should be promoting dialogue as the best way to work out differences."