Sudan parliament cuts state of emergency to six months

KHARTOUM� Sudan's parliament approved a nationwide state of emergency of six months instead of one year as ordered by President Omar al-Bashir to quell protests against his iron-fisted rule.

Bashir declared a year-long state of emergency from Feb 22 after an initial crackdown failed to suppress the demonstrations that have rocked his administration for nearly three months.

A six-month state of emergency has been approved by a majority, the speaker of parliament Ibrahim Ahmed Omer said after lawmakers voted on the presidential decree.

Deadly protests erupted on Dec 19 after a government decision to triple the price of bread.

The demonstrations quickly escalated into nationwide rallies against Bashir's administration, with analysts calling it the biggest challenge to his rule stretching back three decades.

Officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence so far, while Human Rights Watch has given a death toll of at least 51 including medics and children.

Monday's vote by lawmakers backed a recommendation from a parliamentary committee to shorten the state of emergency to six months.

Sudan's Minister of Justice Mohamed Ahmed Salim defended the state of emergency in parliament, which is overwhelmingly dominated by lawmakers from the ruling National Congress Party.

What we have is a soft state of emergency and still people are complaining, he said.

Bashir has also issued a slew of tough measures to end the protests, banning unauthorised rallies and setting up special emergency courts to investigate offences.

He has also given sweeping powers to security forces to carry out raids and searches.

Scores of protesters have appeared before the emergency courts already and several have been jailed, while nine women have received sentences of 20 lashes each for joining rallies.


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