By Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s public prosecution has launched legal proceedings against a prominent newspaper and the bar association, triggering complaints that authorities are trying to restrict basic freedoms nearly a year after a coup.
On Monday, the public prosecution’s cyber crimes unit issued an order to block the website of Al-Sudani newspaper, one of the country’s most respected dailies.
A day earlier, the prosecution called the head of the steering committee for the Sudanese Bar Association in for questioning, and ordered the seizure of its headquarters, a lawyer for the group said.
The public prosecutor’s media office did not respond to a phone call from Reuters.
Following the Oct. 25, 2021 military takeover, scores of veterans that served under Sudan’s former ruling party began returning to the civil service, including within the public prosecutor’s office, justice department, and foreign ministry.
The takeover put in question a widening of political freedoms in Sudan since the ousting of former autocratic leader Omar al-Bashir in a 2019 uprising.
“We learned about the prosecutor’s order through social media, and it was surprising because we were not informed of any complaint against the newspaper,” Al-Sudani editor-in-chief Ataf Mohamed Mukhtar said.
Mukhtar said the newspaper, whose website was still operating on Wednesday, would fight the order, which he said could only be issued by the courts.
“This order goes against the right to free speech and free press that is guaranteed by the law,” he added.
The Bar Association had recently developed a proposal for a new constitution to resolve Sudan’s political crisis, which has seen the military locked in a stand-off with pro-democracy civilian parties and protesters.
Lawyer Satie Al-Haj told Reuters a lawyer had made a complaint over the association’s financial disclosures. The association had secured a block on the order to seize the association’s headquarters, he said.
“What is happening is an organised attack on freedoms by the remnants of the old regime who are trying to return to power,” Al-Haj said.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, writing by Nafisa Eltahir; editing by Aidan Lewis, William Maclean)