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Sudan frees political prisoners

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Seven political prisoners have been freed in Sudan a day after President Omar al-Bashir ordered the release of all political detainees.

Relatives embraced the men as they walked out of a prison in the capital, Khartoum, AFP news agency reports.

They included Abdul Aziz Khalid, who was arrested in January after backing an initiative to oust the government.

Last Monday, Mr Bashir said he wanted a "national dialogue" with all groups so that differences could be resolved.

Rights groups accuse Mr Bashir, who took power in a coup in 1989, of leading one of the most repressive regimes in Africa.

Mr Khalid had attended a meeting in neighbouring Uganda in January of Sudanese opposition parties and rebel groups, where a charter was adopted calling for the overthrow of the government through peaceful and violent means.

After his return to Sudan he was arrested, along with the five other opposition activists who have now been freed.

The opposition meeting in Uganda triggered diplomatic tensions between the Sudanese and Ugandan governments.

Sudan accused Uganda of endorsing regime change in Khartoum.

Uganda denied the charge, saying it was a free country where people could meet to discuss issues.

Last month, Mr Bashir said he would step down at the next election in 2015 because Sudan needed "fresh blood".

Mr Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide, related to the decade-long conflict in Darfur.

The Sudanese government is also fighting rebels along its border with South Sudan, while in Khartoum it is accused of holding on to power by detaining and torturing opposition activists campaigning for peaceful change.

In a speech to parliament last Monday, Mr Bashir said all political prisoners would be freed to create an "atmosphere for freedoms".

"We confirm we will continue our communication with all political and social powers without excluding anyone, including those who are armed, for a national dialogue which will bring a solution to all the issues," the president said.— BBC