Khartoum North — The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) released more than 80 political detainees in Khartoum on Sunday. Relatives of four detained journalists handed a petition to the Sudanese Press Council.
Dozens of families of the detainees and journalists gathered at the gate of Kober Prison in Khartoum North on Sunday afternoon after the NISS media department announced the imminent release of political detainees.
At 8 pm, the first detainees appeared outside the prison, amid cheers and calls for freedom, peace, justice, and closure of the prison.
At a press conference at Kober Prison on Sunday evening, Presidential Aide Abdelrahman El Mahdi reported that President Omar Al Bashir ordered the release of all political detainees in the country.
He said that more than 80 detainees were released from Kober Prison. The other detainees will be released "after the procedures are completed".
Security forces detained hundreds of activists and politicians during protests against new austerity measures and the skyrocketing prices of basic consumer goods in January.
In particular leading opposition members were held during demonstrations in Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum Bahri (North) organised by their parties. A number of them were transferred from the Sudanese capital to prisons in Darfur, and from Sennar to Khartoum.
Journalists covering the protests were also arrested, including correspondents of AFP and Reuters. Newspapers were gagged.
The EU and the US Embassy in Sudan have expressed their concern about the wave of political detentions in January. Sudanese and international organisations have called for the immediate release of the political detainees.
On Sunday morning, relatives of four journalists held by the NISS handed a memorandum demanding their release to the Sudanese Press and Publications Council.
Freelance journalist and activist Amal Habani and correspondent for the communist El Midan newspaper, Kamal Karrar, were held by NISS agents when they were covering a protest march in Khartoum on January 16.
Habani (who was awarded an Amnesty International prize for her human rights reporting in Sudan) was reportedly hit with an electric baton during an interrogation.
El Jareeda reporter Ahmed Jadein was detained during an anti-price hike demonstration in Khartoum North on January 31. Journalist El Haji Abdelrahman El Moz of Akhbar El Yowm daily newspaper was arrested by NISS agents without an explanation on 6 February.