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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-314632 Sudan Arrest (L-O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/31/2004

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=SUDAN/ARREST (L-O)

NUMBER=2-314632

BYLINE=KERRY SHERIDAN

DATELINE=CAIRO

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: Sudan's security forces have arrested Islamic opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi and close to a dozen of his sympathizers and accused them of attempting to overthrow the government. Kerry Sheridan reports from V-O-A's Middle East Bureau in Cairo.

TEXT: Authorities surrounded the home of the 72-year-old head of Sudan's Popular Congress Party and took him into custody during the early morning hours.

A leader of the Islamic movement in Sudan since the 1960s, Mr. al-Turabi has close personal ties to Osama bin Laden, and is said to be the mentor of al-Qaida number-two man Ayman al-Zawahri.

In 1989, Mr. al-Turabi's National Islamic Front took part in a coup that overthrew Sudan's elected government and set up a police state that drew worldwide condemnation for mass executions, torture of prisoners, and suppression of political freedoms.

But an expert on Sudan at Cairo's Al-Ahram newspaper, Asmaa el-Husseiny, says she interviewed Mr. al-Turabi on Monday and he denied any attempt to overthrow the government.

/// EL-HUSSEINY ACT -- IN ARABIC, FADE UNDER ///

She says Mr. al-Turabi acknowledged the failure of the last coup, which led Sudan into civil war. He said rather than resort to armed insurgency again, he and his followers would continue to put non-violent pressure on the government to resolve disputes over territory, security and authority in the troubled regions of Sudan.

Rebels in the western Sudan's Darfur region have been battling government forces for over a year, creating a humanitarian catastrophe. Peace talks collapsed late last year, but a new round has opened in neighboring Chad.

Ms. el-Husseiny says the Sudanese government believes Mr. al-Turabi enjoys significant support among ethnic rebel groups in southern, eastern and western Sudan, and may have been inciting sedition within the military.

/// 2nd EL-HUSSEINY ACT - IN ARABIC, FADE UNDER ///

She says his arrest reflects an escalation of the political unrest throughout the country.

Prior to Wednesday's arrest, Mr. al-Turabi had spent nearly three years in custody but was released in October of last year. (SIGNED)

NEB/KS/MAR/RAE



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