UPDATE 2-Sudan frees jailed opposition leader Al-Mahdi

Sun Jun 15, 2014 5:10pm GMT

* Al-Mahdi says to consider resuming talks with the government

* Sudan expects presidential and parliament votes in April (Adds Al-Mahdi's comments, supporters' celebrations)

By Khaled Abdel Aziz

KHARTOUM, June 15 (Reuters) - Sudanese authorities released opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi on Sunday, in a signal of the government's intent to ease political tensions ahead of elections next year.

Al-Mahdi, who was arrested in mid-May, was accused of undermining the constitution, a charge that could have led to the death penalty, after he said the government had committed violence against civilians in the Darfur region.

Sudan's State Minister of Information Yasser Youssef told Reuters that the release of al-Mahdi occurred within a "legal framework" but did not give further details.

Al-Mahdi, a former prime minister in Sudan's last elected civilian government, is the head of the Umma Party, the most prominent party opposing President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who ousted him in 1989.

His arrest prompted weekly protests by his supporters. His Umma party cancelled national dialogue talks called by Bashir earlier this year to calm down opponents who have regularly been voicing discontent over the government's handling of the troubled western region of Darfur.

The head of the Congress Party, another opposition group, was arrested earlier this month after he too criticised violent practices by security forces in Darfur.   Continued...

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