A Sudanese court sentenced 27 members of the intelligence service to death on Monday, convicted of torturing a protester to death earlier this year.
These are the first death sentences for members of the Sudanese forces for the deaths of protesters, just over a year after the start of an unprecedented revolt against the regime.
At least 177 people have been killed in the crackdown on the movement, according to Amnesty International. A committee of doctors close to the demonstrators assesses the death toll at more than 250 victims.
The dreaded Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) had played a key role in the crackdown, and in July the ruling military renamed it the General Intelligence Service.
Dozens of protesters gathered Monday in a court in Omdurman, a town near Khartoum, where the trial of the 27 members of the service was taking place.
They held up portraits of the victim, Ahmed al-Kheir, a teacher from Kassala state in the east of the country.
« The martyr’s blood will not have been shed in vain », « Long live justice », « Just punishment », they chanted after the announcement of the verdict. Some of the demonstrators had come by bus from Kassala, 800 km from the capital, to attend the hearing.
« We have come to support our colleague’s family, » Ahmed Hassan told AFP.
At the hearing, when judge Sadok Albdelrahmane asked the brother of the victim, Saad al-Kheir, if he was ready to forgive the 27 accused, the latter burst into tears before replying: “I ask for the punishment of death ».
Ahmed al-Kheir was arrested on January 31 in a locality in Kassala state and then taken to the premises of the general intelligence service, said the judge.
Twenty-seven members of the service were found guilty of torturing him to death, he said. « The beatings received led to his death, » he said.
The death of the victim, accused of having participated in the organization of anti-government demonstrations, was announced on February 2.
Eleven members of the same intelligence service were sentenced to between three and five years in prison in this case. The defense has two weeks to appeal.
On December 19, 2018, hundreds of Sudanese began demonstrating in several cities across the country after the government’s decision to triple the price of bread in the midst of an economic crisis.
This movement turned into a revolt which culminated on April 11 in the dismissal by the army of President Omar al-Bashir, after 30 years of unchallenged power.
Since the conclusion in August of an agreement between the soldiers who had succeeded Mr. Bashir and the leaders of the protest, the country has been led by a transitional government, with a civilian Prime Minister and a Sovereign Council composed of civilians and military.
The new authorities have stepped up measures to dismantle the old regime and meet the aspirations of the protest.
In September Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok formed a committee to investigate the crackdown on a sit-in on June 3 outside the army’s headquarters in Khartoum, the bloodiest episode in the revolt.
On the first anniversary of the revolt, thousands of Sudanese had demonstrated in Khartoum and other cities across the country to demand justice from the « martyrs of the revolution ».
Mr. Béchir, detained since April in Khartoum, was sentenced on December 14 to a two-year sentence in a penal institution for “corruption”.
The ex-dictator remains the target of serious charges from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes during the bloody conflict in West Darfur from 2003 onwards.