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Britain Calls for Probe into Beating of Sudanese Editor

Britain expresses hope that a proper probe will be made into an assault of a Sudanese newspaper editor who called for ties with Israel.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 7/21/2014, 5:12 AM

Newspaper stand (illustration)
Newspaper stand (illustration)
Reuters

Britain expressed hope on Sunday that a "proper" probe would be made into an assault by armed men who beat a Sudanese newspaper editor over his support for Israel, according to AFP.

Gunmen raided the Al-Tayar daily on Saturday evening and severely beat chief editor Osman Mirghani, who had called for normalization of ties with Israel.

"I hope there will be a proper investigation to discover what has happened," British ambassador Peter Tibber told reporters outside Al-Zaytouna Hospital in central Khartoum, where Mirghani was conscious and being treated.

The editor's family was with him and he was "strong", said Tibber, expressing hope that "he will be out soon and that he can recover over the festival of Eid al-Fitr which starts next week at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The violence against Mirghani was an unusual physical attack against a journalist in Sudan, although reporters regularly complain of censorship by the National Intelligence and Security Service.

About seven gunmen drove up to the newspaper's office on Saturday evening and ordered the staff to lie down, Faisal Mohamed Salih, an award-winning Sudanese journalist and press freedom advocate, told AFP, citing information from Al-Tayar reporters.

They took the reporters' mobile phones and laptops, and severed computer connections before turning on Mirghani in his office, said Salih, who won the 2013 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism.

They "started beating him in his head, in his leg, using the guns and the sticks," he said.

About 300 Sudanese journalists gathered outside Al-Tayar's office on Sunday to protest the incident, witnesses told AFP.

They held up copies of Sunday's edition of the newspaper, which published despite the attack that it reported on its front page.

From Al-Tayar, the protesting journalists marched to the office of Sudan's press council where the body's chairman, Ali Shumo, called the incident a "terrorist attack" and called for a police investigation.

In a statement carried by the official SUNA news agency, police said "unidentified persons" carried out the assault.

It occurred just a few days after Mirghani called on local television for Islamist Sudan to normalize relations with Israel, Salih said.

Sudan does not have formal relations with Israel and, in fact, has accused the Jewish state in the past of carrying out airstrikes against targets in Sudan.

In October of 2012, Sudan claimed that Israeli airstrikes caused an explosion and fire at a military factory south of the capital, Khartoum, killing two people.

Israel refused all comment on Sudan's accusation about the factory blast, though a top Israeli defense official said Sudan "serves as a route for the transfer, via Egyptian territory, of Iranian weapons to Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists."

Iranian warships regularly dock in Port Sudan, in what Khartoum describes as “routine” visits. Khartoum has denied Iranian involvement in weapons manufacturing and has accused Israel of "spreading fabricated information".