Thu, Apr 16, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Sudanese police break up rally against executions

AP , KHARTOUM

Police used tear gas on Tuesday to disperse dozens of Sudanese protesters marching over the execution of nine people from the Darfur region convicted in the killing of a newspaper editor.

The protesters hurled stones at vehicles and forced shops to close as they gathered at the burial place of the executed in south Khartoum. Police backed by special units closed off all the streets leading to the cemetery in Sahafa burial area until the burial was complete.

The rebel Sudan Liberation Movement says those executed were all from the Darfur region, where government forces have been battling rebels for six years.

They were convicted for the 2006 killing of a newspaper editor who became a target of anger over an article deemed blasphemous.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, masked men abducted Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed, editor of the pro-Islamist Al-Wifaq newspaper, from his home in Khartoum. His body was later found decapitated in the street.

Ahmed was a controversial figure in Sudan’s Muslim community, having angered Islamists in 2005 when his newspaper republished an article from the Internet that questioned the lineage of the Prophet Mohammed.

The article upset Muslims of different sects, and some gathered in protest demanding Ahmed’s execution. The editor eventually apologized in a letter to the press, saying he did not intend to insult the prophet. Ahmed was also critical of armed groups in Darfur and questioned the stories of rape and sexual violence against women.

Nine men were eventually convicted of the killing and sentenced to execution. They were hanged on Monday at a prison in Khartoum.

The men’s defense attorney, Kamal Omar, said the ruling was weak as it relied on confessions extracted under torture.

More than 300,000 people have died since ethnic African rebels in Darfur took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government in 2003, accusing it of decades of discrimination and neglect.

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