A Sudanese court on Monday sentenced 27 members of the country's security forces to death for torturing and killing a detained protester during the uprising against longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir earlier this year.
The death of protester Ahmed al-Khair, a school teacher, while in detention in February was a key point — and a symbol — in the uprising that eventually led to the military's ouster of al-Bashir. Monday's convictions and sentences, which can be appealed, were the first connected to the killings of protesters in the revolt.
Last December, the first rally was held in Sudan to protest the soaring cost of bread and the dire economic conditions, marking the beginning of a pro-democracy movement that convulsed the large African country. That led, in April, to the toppling of al-Bashir, and ultimately to the creation of a joint military-civilian Sovereign Council that has committed to rebuilding the country and promises elections in three years.
The anniversary of that protest this month drew teeming crowds to the streets in several cities and towns across the country, with people singing, dancing and carrying flags. A train packed with exuberant demonstrators, clapping and chanting, arrived in the northern city of Atbara, the birthplace of the uprising, from the capital, Khartoum.
Monday's verdict in the trial of the security forces took place in a court in Omdurman, Khartoum's twin city, where hundreds of protesters, including many from the eastern province of Kassala, al-Khair's hometown, had gathered outside the courtroom and elsewhere in the city.
Footage circulating online shows the protesters cheering after the verdict was announced. The Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of unions that led the protests against al-Bashir, welcomed the verdict. The group vowed to continue pursuing and bringing to justice security officials accused of torture.
Mohammed al-Feki Soliman, a member of the Sovereign Council, said the verdict "renews the Sudanese people's trust in their judicial institutions."
Al-Khair was detained on Jan. 31 in Kassala and was reported dead two days later. His body was taken to a local hospital where his family said it was covered in bruises. At the time, police denied any police wrongdoing and blamed his death on an "illness," without providing any details.
Judge al-Sadik al-Amin al-Fek, however, said on Monday that the teacher was beaten and tortured while in detention. "His death was an inevitable consequence of the beating and torture," he said.
The court also sentenced three other members of the security forces to three years each in prison, and acquitted seven suspects in the case. All the sentenced were policemen who were working in the jail where al-Khair was held or intelligence agents in the region.
Following a tradition based on Islamic law, or Sharia, the court gave al-Khair's family the opportunity to "forgive" the suspects, which could have led to their pardon, but the offer was declined.
Taj al-Ser Ali al-Hebr, the country's top prosecutor, welcomed the verdict as a "victory." He called on the government to join the U.N. Convention Against Torture.
Earlier this month, a court in Khartoum convicted al-Bashir, who was jailed by the military after he was removed from power, of money laundering and corruption, and sentenced him to two years in a minimum security lockup. The image of the former dictator in a defendant's cage on live TV sent a strong message for all of Sudan.
However, the deposed ruler is under indictment by the International Criminal Court on far more serious charges of war crimes and genocide linked to his brutal suppression of the insurgency in the western province of Darfur in the early 2000s. The military has refused to extradite him to stand trial in The Hague. Al-Bashir is now awaiting a separate trial, on charges of involvement in the killing of protesters in the months prior to his ouster.
Amnesty International and other rights groups have called on the new government to hold security forces accountable for killing scores of people in their efforts to stifle protests against military rule, especially those behind a deadly crackdown on a huge sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum last June.
Since last December, more than 200 protesters have been killed in Sudan. The government recently appointed independent judges to oversee investigations into the killings, a major achievement for the protest movement.
Sudan is under heavy international and regional pressure to reform. With the economy on the brink, the new government has made it a mission to get Sudan removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism so that it can attract badly needed foreign aid.
But the transitional government on Sunday passed the 2020 budget that dropped proposals to slash food and fuel subsidies.
The pro-democracy movement fears that the austerity measures could led to a spike in the inflation rate which increased to 60% in November.
Sudan is expected to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. But that would require the government to cut food and fuel subsidies and further devalue the local currency, said the IMF's Daniel Kanda after a visit to Sudan earlier this month.
Sudanese Information Minister Faisal Saleh said the government decided to postpone cutting subsidies until an economic conference the country plans to hold in March.
A total of 23 people were killed and seven others were injured after a bus overturned on Saturday in Egypt's Port Said, northwest of the capital Cairo.
The bus, carrying factory laborers, crashed into a truck on Port Said-Damietta highway before it overturned, the state-run MENA news agency said.
Ambulances rushed to the scene to move the injured to nearby hospitals.
Egypt suffers a high rate of traffic accidents that kill thousands of people every year, mostly due to negligence of traffic rules.
Tanzanian conservation authorities said on Saturday the world's oldest free-ranging female black rhino has died in the Ngorongoro crater aged 57.
Freddy Manongi, the Conservation Commissioner for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), said in a statement that the rhino named Fausta died of suspected natural death on Friday.
"Records show that Fausta lived longer than any rhino in the world and survived in the Ngorongoro, free-ranging, for more than 54 years before it was kept in a sanctuary for the last three years of its life in 2016," said the statement.
The statement said the rhino was first located in the Ngorongoro crater in 1965 by a scientist from the University of Dar es Salaam, at the age between three and four years.
"The health of the rhino began to deteriorate in 2016, when we were forced to put the animal in captivity, after several attacks from hyenas that inflicted severe wounds on the rare animal," said the statement.
The statement added that the rhino also lost sight, which further compromised its survival ability in the wild, adding that the rhino survived 57 years without bearing calves.
The life expectancy of rhinos is between 37 and 43 years in the wild and they can live up to 50 years and above in captivity, said the statement.
Health authorities say about two dozen people, mostly laborers, were killed Saturday when a minibus collided with a truck on a highway in Port Said in northern Egypt.
Officials said in a statement that the minibus, a vehicle widely used in Egypt as a communal taxi, was bringing the laborers from a garment factory in Port Said. The city is around 200 kilometers (around 125 miles) north of the capital, Cairo.
At least 22 people were killed in the crash, which took place on a highway linking the cities of Port Said and Damietta, the statement said. The workers were from Damietta.
Eight others were injured, some of them severely. All the victims were taken to nearby hospitals and morgues for treatment and identification, the statement said.
In a separate road crash, at least six people when a bus collided on Saturday with another bus on a highway close to the Red Sea resort of Ain Sokhna, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Cairo, according to health authorities.
The dead included three Egyptians and three tourists: two Malaysians and an Indian, the state-run daily al-Ahram reported.
Another 24 others were injured in the crash and were taken to nearby hospitals.
Egypt has a history of serious bus and car crashes because of speeding, careless driving, poor road conditions and poor enforcement of traffic laws.
The country's official statistics agency says more than 8,000 road accidents took place in 2018, leaving more than 3,000 dead and around 12,000 injured.
Two Kenyan police officers were killed and seven others injured when a vehicle in which they were traveling in hit an improvised explosive device (IED) in Wajir county in northeast Kenya on Friday evening.
Wajir county police commander Stephen Ngetich said on Saturday that the attack on the special forces attached to the Katulo patrol base happened as the officers were on their way from Khorof Harar onboard their camp Landcruiser which he said was extensively damaged by the IED.
"We have launched investigations into the incident in which two of our security officers were killed while seven others were injured," he said, noting that a major manhunt for the attackers is underway.
The latest incident comes barely a week after police officers who were on a routine patrol along the Katulo area escaped unhurt after a homemade bomb that had been planted along the Tarbaj-Kutulo road exploded.
Kenya's northeastern region has borne the brunt of grenade and gun attacks in the last several years since Kenya took its troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the al-Shabab militia group.
Many people, majority of them non-locals or Christians have as a result lost their lives with others left with permanent injuries.
The extremist group has since changed tactics and resorted to abductions and using improvised explosive devices to carry out attacks in parts of Coast and northeastern regions, according to police.