Voice of America (Washington, DC)

16 June 2014

Sudan: Opposition Official - Sudan National Dialogue Not Possible

The daughter of Sudanese opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi said there can be no national political dialogue in Sudan when everything people say is criminalized and there is lack of press and religious freedom.

Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, the first woman vice president of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP), said the arrest and death sentence against self-proclaimed Christian Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag for apostasy is nonsensical.

Mariam al-Sadiq said one of the tenets of Islam is freedom of thought and belief.

She made the remarks after authorities Sunday released her father, Sadiq al-Mahdi, who was arrested in mid-May after he was accused of undermining the constitution.

She said her father's arrest and detention was a political conspiracy by the government of President Omar al-Bashir.

"It was an absolutely political conspiracy by the regime because, according our party, after studying all the reports from different grassroots groups in different parts of Sudan, we called upon the government to conduct an investigation into the atrocities allegedly committed by the supporters. So, they accused him of undermining the constitution," she said.

Mahdi had accused Sudan's counter-insurgency unit of abuses against civilians in the Darfur region.

Mariam al-Sadiq says her father's arrest was also in violation of Sudan's constitution.

"The whole matter was totally outside the jurisdiction of the law because, in Sudan law, any man or woman 70 years of age and above, they do not have detention or the death penalty, even if found guilty," she said.

Bashir and the ruling National Congress Party have been touting the idea of a national dialogue between political parties in the country.

Mariam al-Sadiq said there can be no dialogue in the midst of repression. She said Sudan is a country of monologue, not dialogue.

"You see, there can be no dialogue when we are under the threat of the barrel of the gun. When you say anything different, you will be criminalized; the media, if they talk about lack

of freedom, they are criminalized; if they talk about corruption, they are criminalized. So, in this atmosphere, there cannot be any dialogue. It is only a place for monologue," she said.

She took aim at Sudan's Information Minister, Ahmed Bilal, who had repeatedly said that there's a new era of political and press freedom in his country.

"This minister of information is the absolute tyrant against all freedoms of expression, especially for the journalists and the newspapers. They have shut down two newspapers. So, this minister of media is now the symbol of tyranny and lack of freedom in Sudan," she said.

Mariam al-Sadiq said the arrest and pending execution of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag for apostasy is ridiculous because it violates one of the basic tenets of Islam, which is freedom of thought and belief.

"It is absolutely a nonsensical verdict because the basic tenet of Islam is freedom of religion and thought, and there is no place for criminalizing a person for their own thoughts. And Koranic verses talk about people who change their religion from Islam to other religions as having their punishment in the day after, not in this life," Mariam al-Sadiq said.

A three-judge panel in Sudan is considering Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag's appeal with no indication when they will give their decision.

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