Sudanese opposition leader arrested say family

The family of Sudan's top Islamist opposition leader said today that he has been arrested after calling for a Tunisia-style uprising in the country.

Wasaal al-Mahdi, the wife of veteran Islamist Hussein al-Turabi, said security forces arrested him at around midnight and took him to a Khartoum prison along with his bodyguard.

Ms al-Mahdi said the bodyguard was beaten while in detention and released early today. Mr al-Turabi is still in custody.

Mr al-Turabi has recently spoken out against President Omar al-Bashir's government and called for a popular uprising similar to the revolt in Tunisia which toppled the country's authoritarian president.

A recent hike in the price of oil and basic commodities in Sudan has sparked protests by university students and calls for the resignation of local officials.

Mr al-Turabi's son, Siddiq, said around eight other members of his Islamic Popular Congress Party also were arrested.

Echoing her husband's position, Ms al-Mahdi said the PCP is "against the government and we want to bring it down by any means".

"They will use violence and we will use rallies and slogans. This is what all the opposition forces in Sudan will do," she said.

Mr al-Turabi's challenge to Mr al-Bashir's government comes at a tumultuous time for Sudan.

On Saturday, voters in the country's south finished a week-long referendum on independence which is widely expected to see southern Sudan split off into a new country.

Mr al-Bashir, who is wanted on an international indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the western region of Darfur, also faces rebellions in the west and east, as well as internal political opposition.

Mr al-Turabi was the driving force behind 1989 military coup which brought Mr al-Bashir to power before. The pair set up an Islamist-style government, until they fell out in 1999, and Mr al-Turabi set up his own party.

He was the only Sudanese politician who has dared to say that Mr al-Bashir should surrender to an international court.

Mr al-Turabi has been arrested several times in the past, most recently in May when he was held for seven weeks. His son Siddiq said the most recent arrest is a warning to the rest of the opposition.

"This is a message to the rest of the political opposition forces to shut up," he said.