Sudan's military ruler on Thursday sacked the country's prosecutor general, days after charges of corruption were brought against ousted leader Omar al-Bashir as new protests got underway.
The dismissal came as General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan's deputy in the ruling military council announced that the mastermind behind a deadly raid on a protest camp on June 3 had been identified.
Abdallah Ahmed will replace Al-Waleed Sayyed Ahmed as prosecutor general, the official SUNA news agency reported, without giving any reason for the sacking.
Bashir appeared on Sunday in front of another prosecutor to face charges of corruption and illegal possession of foreign currency.
Thursday's sacking also comes weeks after protesters were violently dispersed on June 3 by men in military uniforms who, according to witnesses, shot and beat demonstrators who had take part in a weeks-long sit-in outside the military headquarters.
The military council has steadfastly denied it had ordered the dispersal, but clarified it had ordered a purge of a nearby area notorious for “criminals” selling drugs.
The council has said that the purge of the area called Colombia was carried out only after a meeting of legal and security chiefs, which was attended by Al-Waleed Sayyed Ahmed.
Last week he told reporters he had attended the meeting but had left by the time the purge operation was discussed, saying: “In our presence, the dispersal of the sit-in was not even remotely discussed.”
Raid mastermind identified
At least 128 people have been killed since the crackdown, the majority on the day the sit-in was cleared, according to doctors linked to the protest movement that led to Bashir's ouster.
The health ministry gave a nationwide death toll of 61.
Deputy military council chief, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, said on Thursday that the mastermind behind the raid had been “identified”.
But he declined to name the suspect, saying “there's no need to impact the investigation”.
“Whoever it is, whether from regular forces or a civilian, will be brought to trial. The investigation will be transparent and the trial will be public,” he said.
Protesters claim the crackdown was carried out by members of Dagalo's feared paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces.
Dagalo defended his force, saying anybody could wear the unit's uniform which could be bought in the markets.
“We arrested a general yesterday for distributing IDs of the RSF,” he said, adding that 23 other individuals were detained in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan for wearing the unit's uniform and “checking people”.
The June 3 raid came after protest leaders and generals failed to reach an agreement over who should head a new governing body — a civilian or soldier.
The generals, who seized power after the army ousted Bashir on April 11 following a popular uprising, have so far resisted to transfer power to a civilian administration.
On Wednesday, Burhan called on protest leaders to resume talks without any conditions.
Protest leaders have expressed readiness to resume talks but on certain conditions.
They insist an internet blackout imposed after they launched a civil disobedience campaign this month be brought to an end.
They are also seeking an international probe into the killings and the acceptance of all earlier agreements reached in previous negotiations with the generals prior to the crackdown.
Hundreds of protesters chanting “civilian rule, civilian rule,” took part in demonstrations on Thursday in several cities after organisers called for new rallies to pressure the generals.
Witnesses said rallies took place in Port Sudan, the country's main economic hub, in the central towns of Al-Obeid and Madani, and in the eastern town of Kassala.
“We came out today because our revolution is still incomplete. Our main demand is civilian rule and I'm sure we will achieve it,” said Mohamed Khalil, a protester from Port Sudan.
Witnesses said dozens of employees from private companies and ministries, including oil and information, held silent demonstrations outside their offices in Khartoum.
Some carried banners that read “Murderers of June 3 must face trial,” a witness said.