The Sudanese military is ordering the release of four ministers

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Sudan’s supreme general on Thursday ordered the release of four ministers in the now ousted government, who were detained during a widely condemned military coup last week, the country’s state news agency reported.

Moez Hadra, a defense lawyer for the ousted officials, said the ministers have not yet been released.

The news agency SUNA said that General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan had issued the decision to Hamza Baloul, Minister of Information and Culture; Hashim Hasabel-Rasoul, Minister of Communications; Ali Gedou, Minister of Trade and International Cooperation, and Youssef Adam, Minister of Youth and Sport, will be released.

Thursday’s development comes when the country’s top generals and former civilian leaders are locked in tense negotiations on a way out of the crisis triggered by the military takeover last week. International pressure to resolve the crisis and reinstall the transitional civilian government has increased. At the same time, protest leaders and rights workers warn of a comprehensive arrest campaign against activists and opposition leaders.

On October 25, al-Burhan dissolved the transitional government and imprisoned other government officials and political leaders in a coup.

Many were taken from their homes in the early morning hours and have been kept in secret places. The military leaders also attacked the state news television headquarters, shutting down mobile and Internet communications across the country. Tens of thousands of people came out to protest. Internet services were still limited.

At the same time, the international community continues to push for a downsizing that could put Sudan back on the path to democracy. The UN Human Rights Council will hold an emergency meeting on the situation on Friday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged General al-Burhan in a telephone conversation on Thursday to take steps to resolve “the political crisis in Sudan and immediately restore constitutional order and Sudan’s transition process,” said UN associate spokesman Eri Kaneko.

The UN chief reiterated his call for the release of former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other civilians who were arbitrarily detained, she said, adding that the body’s special envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, continues to speak to all parties and is in contact with the United States.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with both al-Burhan and Hamdok on Thursday and demanded the immediate restoration of Sudan’s civilian government, the State Department said.

“The Secretary urged General Burhan to immediately release all political figures detained since October 25 and return to a dialogue that will return Prime Minister Hamdok to office and restore civilian rule in Sudan,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Hadra said the four ministers slated for release were among the 100 government officials and political leaders arrested during the coup. Half of them, he said, are believed to be held in Khartoum and the others are spread across the country’s provinces.

He said he has not been able to communicate with his clients or even know where they are until now. He said about 25 officials and politicians were facing charges of inciting rebels.

The coup, which was strongly condemned by the United States and the West, came more than two years after a popular uprising forced the military to remove longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir and his government in April 2019. It has thwarted the country’s fragile planned transition to democratic rule.

Hamdok, the prime minister, was also arrested but released within two days. However, he has since been placed under house arrest but met with the UN and international diplomats as part of the mediation work.

Former government officials are not the only targets for the arrests, according to opposition members.

Sara Abdelgalil, spokeswoman for the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), the major force behind the 2019 uprising and anti-coup protests, estimated that hundreds of protesters and opposition figures have gathered in the past week. Some have disappeared and some have been interrogated and later released, she said.

Ali Agab, a prominent Sudanese human rights lawyer, said he had heard reports of security forces identifying protesters from photos taken during demonstrations and forcibly detaining them from their homes.

Abdelgalil said close communication has made it difficult to know how many have disappeared or are being held in secret prisons that were often used under al-Bashir.

“We do not know the extent of what has happened in the last 10 days,” she said.

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