Sudanese protesters demand justice for army crackdown victims

Thousands of Sudanese protesters have poured onto the streets of Khartoum and other cities to mark the 40th day since the deadly dispersal of a sit-in outside the army headquarters that killed more than 100 people.

Dubbed the “Justice First” marches, Saturday’s demonstrations were called by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA, which has been spearheading the protests since December that led to themilitary ousting of longtime leader Omar al-Bashirin April.

Chanting “Blood for blood, we won’t accept compensations”, crowds of protesters marched through the main streets of the Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan, and central cities of Madani and Al-Obeid, witnesses said.

Many protesters were carrying banners that read “Justice for Martyrs”, while others held photographs of demonstrators killed in the raid.

In the capital itself, witnesses said a march had been staged in the Haj Yousef area, but more were expected later in the day.

The June 3 raid came after talks between protest leaders and military generals, who seized power after Al-Bashir was ousted, collapsed over who should head a new governing body – a civilian or soldier.

Protest organisers say security forces killed at least 128 people during the dispersal and subsequent crackdown. Authorities, however, put the death toll at 61, including three from security forces.

The protest organisers hoped that large numbers would take part in the marches, similar to massive demonstrations on June 30, when tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets in the biggest show of numbers in the uprising.

At least 11 people were killed in clashes with security forces, according the organisers.

Transition ‘deal’

Saturday’s marches also put pressure on the ruling military council as it and the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change – which represents the protesters – planned to meet to sign a power-sharing agreement.

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African Unionenvoy Mohammed el-Hassan Labat originally said a meeting would take place on Saturday night.

But Ahmed Rabei, a spokesperson for the SPA, said later that the protest movement had called for the talks to be postponed until Sunday, “for more consultations” within the FDFC on the deal.

The signing ceremony was expected to take place earlier this week, but several delays have been announced, raising suspicions that the two parties might still be divided over the agreement’s details.

The Sudanese Communist Party, which is part of the protest movement, criticised the “vague” talks between the military council and the FDFC.

Mahmoud al-Khateib, the party’s political secretary, said they rejected the participation of current members of the military council in the transition.

The deal includes a joint Sovereign Council, set to rule for a little over three years while elections are organised, along with a constitutional declaration, according to a copy of the deal obtained by The Associated Press.

A military leader is to head the 11-member council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18.