Sudan Arrests 17 Opposition Activists Amid Dialogue Call: HRW

Sudan's security forces have arrested at least 17 opposition activists this month, Human Rights Watch said Friday, as President Omar al-Bashir urges opponents to join talks to solve Sudan's myriad problems.

The National Intelligence and Security Services have arrested at least 17 members of opposition parties since the beginning of August, most of whom are affiliated with the Sudanese Congress party, HRW said.

The Sudanese Congress is a small party whose activists have been giving speeches criticising Bashir's rule.

Most of those arrested were released after being interrogated but must report back daily for further questioning, and some told HRW they had been beaten during detention.

"Sudan's national security officials are abusing people just for expressing their political views," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director for the New York-based rights watchdog.

"The government should put an end to these tactics, rein in the national security service and uphold free speech and assembly."

The arrests have come as Bashir, 71, has been pressing for a national dialogue to address the conflicts on Sudan's peripheries and its ailing economy.

Bashir, who has been in power since a 1989 Islamist-backed coup, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in the western region of Darfur. He won another five-year term in April elections marred by an opposition boycott and reports of low voter turnout.

Rights groups have previously criticised Sudan's security services for harassing and detaining opposition politicians and activists.

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