Sudanese security officials arrested 15 Darfur rebels weeks after the country’s president pardoned and freed them, their lawyer said, amid signs that a peace deal with their insurgent force was faltering.
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir announced the release of 57 jailed members of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) last month after signing a ceasefire with the group.
JEM has since threatened to pull out of further peace talks hosted in the Qatari capital Doha in protest at Khartoum’s plans to sign a similar accord with another insurgent grouping.
Sudanese security agents arrested 15 of the freed men late last week as they were preparing to leave Khartoum, their lawyer Adam Bakr Hassab told Reuters.
No one was immediately available to comment from Sudanese national security, the country’s Ministry of Justice or from JEM’s delegation in Doha.
“There are 15 guys who have been arrested by national security … This situation is wrong according to Sudanese law,” said Hassab.
“I am not astonished as we have dealt with this situation before. There are many people who have been released by the courts but are still in prison. The courts clear them and national security arrests them again.”
Hassab said he was trying to find out where the men were being held.
“Some of them (the 57 freed men) were trying to leave Khartoum in groups to the west of Sudan. There were four groups. This (the 15 arrested men) was one of the groups,” he added.
Sudan sentenced more than 100 men to death after they were convicted of taking part in a JEM attack on Khartoum in May 2008.
Scores of JEM supporters rallied outside Khartoum’s notorious Kober prison as the men were freed last month, unfurling banners in an unprecedented public display of support for the insurgents.
JEM and the insurgent Sudan Liberation Army took up arms against Sudan’s government in 2003, accusing it of leaving the western region marginalised underdeveloped.
Khartoum mobilised mostly Arab militias to crush the uprising, unleashing a wave of violence that Washington and some activists have called genocide.
Khartoum rejects the charge, saying 10 000 have died in the conflicts, much lower than one UN estimate of around 300 000 deaths.
Pic: JEM rebels