10 June 2018

Sudan Change Now Calls for Release of Blind Darfuri Sheikh

Khartoum — The Sudan Change Now Movement is calling for the immediate release of Sheikh Matar Younis, one of the most prominent defenders of the displaced in Darfur, who was detained more than two months ago.

Sheikh Younis, a blind cleric and activist who is over 60 years old, was detained by agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) from his home in the Central Darfur capital of Zalingei on April 2.

A few days later he was transferred to Khartoum, where he is still being held in Kober Prison in Khartoum North.

"We are concerned about his life as the sheikh has a weak health," El Shafee Abdallah, the coordinator of the displaced camps of Central Darfur, told Radio Dabanga in early April.

On April 19, Amnesty International pressed for Younis' release in an 'urgent action' call.

In a statement on Friday, the Sudan Change Now Movement strongly condemns the continued detention of the sheikh without charges, and called it "a violation of all legal norms".

The movement urges Sudan's "legal authorities and Human Rights Commission to perform their duty and seek the release of Sheikh Matar [..].

"Sheikh Matar represents a voice of living conscience that stands against the Sudanese government's brutality, oppression and injustice. Ensuring his freedom sjould be a collective responsibility for all of us," the statement reads.

'Young Rebels'

Sheikh Younis is a scholar at the Great Mosque of Zalingei. He heads a Koran School in Zalingei. The sheikh is also the founder of the Young Rebels Association for Freedom and Democracy.

In 2009, NISS officers prevented the sheikh from preaching at the Hasaheesa Mosque in the Central Darfur capital.

Younis explained to Radio Dabanga at the time that he used to talking about events concerning his community during Friday prayers: 'We need to tell the people what happens with the refugees and the displaced, the killing of innocent people and the continuous plundering of properties. We have to address these issues," he said.

Security agents attempted to arrest Younis in the stadium of Zalingei in February 2014, but the crowd present at the stadium prevented the action.

In 2013 and 2014, the sheikh reported to this station about the Sudanese authorities recruiting young Darfuris to join the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in South Kordofan.

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