Prominent journalist arrested in Sudan

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The Independent Online

Sudanese authorities have detained a prominent journalist as he tried to attend a news conference by church leaders following the cancellation by police of an Easter ceremony.

Sudanese authorities have detained a prominent journalist as he tried to attend a news conference by church leaders following the cancellation by police of an Easter ceremony.

Alfred Taban, chairman of the board of Sudan's main English newspaper Khartoum Monitor was arrested yesterday and was being held by the State Security Authority under emergency laws, Nhial Bol, the paper's manager, said.

Security authorities are empowered by the emergency laws to detain people for up to 90 days without charges.

"All our attempts to secure his release were to no avail," Bol said.

Police used tear gas and batons to disperse crowds that gathered on Tuesday to attend an Easter ceremony led by a German preacher and "healer."

An unspecified number were injured and 40 devotees were arrested and later released. The crowd, numbering in the thousands, were protesting a last–minute government decision to move the ceremony from one of Khartoum's main squares to a smaller, closed–door venue.

Bol said journalists at the Khartoum Monitor have been in contact with officials of the National Press Council, an independent organization which monitors the media, to lobby the government for Taban's release.

A native of the southern town of Kaju Kaji near the borders of Uganda and Congo, Taban also reports from Sudan for Reuters news agency and the British Broadcasting Corp. Taban, a Christian, is in his mid–40s. He was detained for several months in 1990 for criticizing the government of President Omar el–Bashir.

The Khartoum Monitor has been critical of the government's human rights record, particularly in the south of the country, where rebels have been fighting successive Khartoum governments since 1983. The rebels want more autonomy for the mainly Christian and animist African south and an end to the domination of the country by the mainly Muslim and Arabized north.

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