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Sudan arrests 4 opposition politicians: party

udanese President Omar al-Bashir addresses top officials from his ruling National Congress Party during a meeting on August 21, 2015 in Khartoum (AFP Photo/Ashraf Shazly)

Khartoum (AFP) – Sudanese security agents have arrested four opposition politicians in Khartoum for giving a speech criticising the government, their party chief said Saturday, as President Omar al-Bashir presses for a national dialogue.

Members of the Reform Now Party, founded by a former Bashir adviser, they were detained late Thursday along with three people who had been listening to their speech.

The party members, “who were carrying out this symbolic act to draw attention to the reality of the crisis, were arrested as they gave a speech to people in a public place,” Reform Now head Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani told a press conference.

Among them were the party’s chief for Khartoum state and his deputy, Atabani said.

The arrests come as Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges over the Darfur conflict, has been calling opponents to join talks to address the country’s problems.

Insurgents have been battling his troops in the western Darfur region since 2003 and in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states since 2011.

Sudan’s economy has also suffered badly since 2011 after it lost most of its oil reserves with the secession of South Sudan.

Bashir announced the dialogue in January but most opposition parties and rebels say conditions are not right for meaningful talks to take place.

Atabani, who split from the ruling party over the repression of street protests in September 2013, said Reform Now will not join the dialogue.

The talks are due to start in Khartoum on October 10.

Human Rights Watch said the security service detained at least 17 opposition activists in August, mostly from the Sudanese Congress, a small party whose members have been giving speeches criticising Bashir’s rule.

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