A Sudanese court on Monday acquitted eight activists accused of killing a military intelligence agent during a protest rally in the capital last year, defense lawyers said.
The Khartoum court ordered the activists’ release, according to the Democratic Front of Lawyers, a group of lawyers who defend pro-democracy protesters.
The activists were accused of killing Sgt. Mirghani al-Jilly, who was found dead following a pro-democracy protest in early March last year at the presidential headquarters in Khartoum.
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A statement from the ruling Sovereign Council at the time said al-Jilly had died after being struck on the head by a “sharp object” by some protesters during the protests.
About two dozen protesters have been arrested in connection with the killing. Twelve were soon released and eight were indicted for their alleged involvement.
The detained protesters were members of the Resistance Committees, the backbone of a popular uprising that forced the military to remove longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. They were also integral to the relentless protests against the coup state since October 2021.
Chief Justice Mamoun Saleh said the case against the protesters was tainted by “many errors,” including allegations of torture, state-run SUNA news agency reported. He said a witness brought to court by prosecutors said he was “forced to testify” against the suspects.
The witness said he was detained for a week in a military intelligence facility before his court appearance, Saleh said. Another testimony by the witness was dismissed as “unreliable” because he was a workmate of the deceased, the judge added.
A defense attorney, Jaffar Kajjo, said the legal team would file charges against those who incited the witness to bear false witness, SUNA reported.
Maysoon Mousa, another defense attorney, called the verdict “a fair step.” He urged authorities in video comments to release more activists detained in a crackdown on anti-military protests.
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After the release of the activists, dozens of protesters celebrated in the capital. The Democratic Front of Lawyers shared video footage of the street celebrations.
In one video, protester Hamza Saleh, who has spent about a year behind bars, was seen outside his home hugging other people who were celebrating and chanting “Revolution is the revaluation of the people”.
Al-Jilly was the second member of security personnel killed in protests that swept the African nation after the military toppled a civilian-led government in an October 2021 coup. In January last year, an agent police officer was stabbed to death during a pro-democracy protest also at the presidential palace.
The coup derailed Sudan’s short-lived and fragile transition to democracy that followed al-Bashir’s ouster. It also plunged the country into chaos and almost brought down its economy.
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Concerted international efforts forced the generals to reach an initial deal in December to restore a democratic transition. Talks were still ongoing to finalize a deal that will see the military hand over power to civilians.