Demand the immediate release of Asim Omar!
In August, a student of the University of Khartoum named Asim Omar was convicted of killing a policeman after a six-month court procedure, and had to wait for the next hearing to know what punishment the court would be aiming for. On September 24, he was sentenced to death by hanging. On the same day, a number of public speeches were issued by opposition parties, and protests were held by the student movements in public places and in universities, exposing and denouncing the trumped-up accusations made against Asim.
Despite the complete lack of evidence from the prosecution, Asim Omar, a member of the Sudan Congress Party and of the Independent Student Conference, is accused of “premeditated murder” of a policeman during a clash between police and students in April 2016. This was provoked by the violent state repression unleashed against students, peacefully protesting against the Tourism Minister’s decision to sell off the premises of the University of Khartoum, or to turn them into a tourist attraction. (see our previous article here)
“Let us take a minute of silence for those who were killed at Camp Kalma.” These were the words of Asim from inside his court cell at the start of the execution hearing, referring to the massacre that had taken place two days before at a camp of displaced people in South Darfur. Internally displaced people at Camp Kalma protested against the visit of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, condemning his war crimes in Darfur. As cheering demonstrators managed to prevent al-Bashir’s visit into the site, armed vehicles equipped with heavy artillery and helicopters were sent in, and revengefully opened fire on the protesters and defenceless people inside the camp, causing dozens of casualties and many deaths.
By these words, Asim reminded the court and those present that he stands on the side of the poor and the marginalized. This is the real reason why the state is trying to silence him.
After the court sentenced him to death, the young student and those who were inside the court to support him chanted with one voice “revolution until victory, revolution until victory”, and then began a demonstration outside the court, in the centre of the capital and at the University of Khartoum. The security services responded with further repression, heavy tear gas and large-scale arrests of up to 40 activists, mostly students, who were charged with various accusations and will be tried in the coming days.
The regime continues to use the worst possible ways to try and suppress the student movement, which has become the main frontline for the Sudanese opposition and the scene of constant confrontations with the regime. On August 31, the interior of the Omdurman Islamic University faced a joint attack from the security services and the ruling party militias, causing the injury of three students. One of them died on the same day, and the two others succumbed to their wounds subsequently.
Such incidents are close to being routine. The regime has a long legacy of opening fire and confronting with weapons anyone who opposes its interests; but a new feature of the repression in recent times is its increased use of the judicial authority. The case of Asim, and the case of the 40 students who will be tried this week, was preceded by the case of Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a Professor at the University of Khartoum who works in the field of human rights and was incarcerated on fabricated charges such as “waging war against the state”. His case lasted for more than 9 months. Along with five other human rights defenders, he was released in a presidential decision and the charges were dropped, as a result of a campaign of internal and external pressures.
Ironically, all these violations come at the same time as a resolution on Sudan has been submitted to the UN Human Rights Council by the Sudanese government along with the United States. This is part of a joint effort aimed at whitewashing the Sudanese government’s crimes, with the perspective of a possible lifting of economic sanctions on Sudan in the near future. It is noteworthy that the government of Sudan, apart from its extensive and bloody crackdown on dissent, has also been committing a huge number of war crimes against civilian populations in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and has provided support to terrorist groups. These atrocities have opened the way for international sanctions, including a trade embargo, which have imposed renewed sufferings on the Sudanese population while leaving the regime off the hook.
Also, after the mediation of the Saudi and Emirati regimes, Sudan has recently been removed from the new version of the list of countries included in Donald Trump’s travel ban. Many see this as a preparation towards a decision to lift US sanctions on Sudan, for which a review is planned on October 12. Socialists in Sudan reject measures of collective punishment such as economic sanctions and travel bans, as they hurt first and foremost those who are victims of the regime’s tyranny. We argue instead for a mass, grassroots and independent struggle by the workers and poor in order to overthrow Al-Bashir’s regime. At the same time, all these unprincipled manoeuvres clearly illustrate the hypocrisy of imperialism and the so-called “international community”, who only care about the economic interests of the major capitalist powers, not the basic rights of the Sudanese people.
A suggested wording could be: “We have been shocked to hear the news about the trial and condemnation of the student Asim Omar to a death sentence. This sentence is a complete miscarriage of justice, based on fabricated accusations and on a lack of any serious evidence, and is clearly aimed at making of Asim an example in order to intimidate the student movement and the public at large against any form of legitimate criticism against the policies of the Sudanese government. The subsequent arrest of up to 40 students who protested against this verdict is equally disgraceful. We demand the immediate release of Asim Omar and of all the students arrested during the protests on September 24, and the dropping of all charges against them.”