February 15, 2010 / 9:01 AM / in 8 years

Protest at funeral of "tortured" Darfur student

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Armed riot police surrounded hundreds of protesters at the funeral of a Darfuri student who colleagues said was tortured and killed by Sudanese authorities in a case that has sparked tensions ahead of elections.

Sudanese security services have denied any involvement in the death of Mohamed Musa, 23, who fellow students told Reuters was abducted in Khartoum on Wednesday and later found dead.

More than 1,000 Darfuris, students and politicians, including at least two presidential candidates, gathered at the funeral in the Khartoum suburb of Omdurman on Monday morning chanting and waving banners, said Reuters witnesses.

Scores of armed riot police and security officers surrounded the family home while relatives sat inside with the body.

“I have lost my son ... I want justice from the government, justice for my son,” Musa’s father Musa Abdullah Bahar al Din told Reuters, breaking down in tears.

The funeral comes days after the start of campaigning in Sudan’s first multiparty presidential and legislative elections in almost a quarter of a century, due in April.

Sudan’s seven-year Darfur conflict, and the powers of Sudan’s extensive security services, have become central issues in the election campaign that sets Sudan’s sitting president Omar Hassan al-Bashir against 11 other candidates.

Presidential candidate Yasir Arman was greeted with chants of “Yasir for change” as he arrived at the house with other candidates from his party, the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

“This crime (Musa’s killing) wasn’t committed in a far village in the rural areas of Darfur. It was in the heart of the capital, a few kilometres from the (president‘s) palace ... It needs to be investigated,” Arman told Reuters after the funeral.

He condemned the security crackdown at the ceremony and the terms of a recent security bill which allowed Sudan’s intelligence services wide powers of arrest and detention.

There was a tense standoff as riot police moved in to block the funeral group when family members started driving Musa’s body to Omdurman’s famous Ahmed Sharfi cemetery, where more students were gathering, said Reuters witnesses.

Officers ordered the group to carry Musa to a much smaller graveyard near the house, on the far outskirts of Omdurman, around 45km (28 miles) from downtown Khartoum.

Police officers last week told Reuters they had found Musa’s body in the street and denied he had ever been arrested. “We consider this to be a normal crime,” a security source said.

Khartoum University students who gathered around a morgue where Musa was taken last week said they had seen the body, adding his hands were burned, his head and body beaten, cut and swollen and his clothes soaked in blood.

They blamed President Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) for the abduction, saying the authorities regularly targeted and beat Darfuri students.

Sudan’s opposition say April’s elections cannot be credible while the conflict continues in the vast western region of Darfur. It remains under emergency law, with sporadic clashes and more than 2 million people languishing in camps.

The United Nations estimates 300,000 people have died in Darfur’s humanitarian crisis since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing central government of neglect of the region.

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