Sudanese opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi was arrested on Saturday on charges that could lead to the death penalty, a move that could hurt efforts to ease political tensions before elections due next year.
Sudanese opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi was arrested on Saturday on charges that could lead to the death penalty, a government official said, a move that could hurt efforts to ease political tensions before elections due next year.
Mahdi, a former prime minister in Sudan's last elected civilian government, is the head of the Umma Party, the most prominent party opposing President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who ousted him in 1989.
The public prosecutor had in the past days already opened an investigation into accusations that he insulted state security forces over a surge in violence in the troubled Darfur region.
A government official, who declined to be named, confirmed Mahdi's arrest and the possible punishment he could face and said the investigations into him would start on Sunday.
In response to the arrest, the Umma party cancelled national dialogue talks called by the president, that were meant to ease tension among Sudan's political parties ahead of parliamentary and presidential polls due next year, especially over the handling of Darfur. No firm date had been set for the talks.
It called on supporters to protest against the detention.
Bashir has been working to shore up his power in the face of an economic crisis since South Sudan seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of the once unified nation's oil output; protests against him and the violence in Darfur.
Western diplomats and Sudanese security sources estimate that thousands have been killed in clashes between militias supporting and opposing the government in Darfur since March.
Law and order has collapsed in much of the huge region, where mainly African tribes took up arms in 2003 against the Arab-led government in Khartoum, which they accused of discriminating against them.
UNAMID has been deployed since 2007. The conflict in Darfur has killed as many as 300,000 people and displaced around 2 million, according to the United Nations.