Sudan’s state security has arrested opposition leader and ex-premier Sadiq al-Mahdi, his secretary says, after he reportedly accused a counter-insurgency unit of rape and other abuses of civilians in Darfur.
“At 8.45pm a number of state security officers came to the home of imam Sadiq Al-Mahdi with a warrant, and they arrested him,” his secretary, Mohammed Zaki, said on Saturday.
An official from Mahdi’s opposition Umma party said agents arrived in two pickup trucks and several cars to arrest Mahdi, one of the highest-profile figures to be detained in Sudan in recent years.
The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) has the right to detain people for more than four months without judicial review.
Earlier on Saturday Mahdi had addressed thousands of people in Gezira state, south of Khartoum.
He told them it was time to end the country’s silence over activities of the security service, witnesses said.
A government source said Mahdi is being held under an order from prosecutors because he has continued to repeat his allegations against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
On Thursday the Umma leader appeared before prosecutors for questioning over the allegations he first made about the RSF at a press conference earlier this month.
Newspapers reported that NISS, which has authority over the RSF, filed a complaint accusing Mahdi of threatening public peace, and other crimes.
At a news conference in Khartoum on Wednesday, commanders of the RSF denied their force had looted, raped or committed arson.
“All the allegations against us are lies,” an angry Mohammed Hamdan Dalgo, the unit’s field commander, shouted.
Mahdi’s detention comes as Umma and some other opposition parties engage in a “national dialogue” with President Omar al-Bashir.
A senior opposition politician said Umma is a main focus of the dialogue process that might lead to a new, coalition government.
The politician said Bashir is pushing for “a real change” because he realises the country is “collapsing”.
The security service is resisting the dialogue process, the politician said.