Sudan charges politicians, officers over "plot"

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KHARTOUM, Nov 19 (Reuters) Sudan has formally charged 28 opposition politicians and army officers with plotting to overthrow the government, more than four months after they were arrested, their supporters said today.

The 28, including the head of the opposition Umma Party for Reform and Renewal, Mubarak al-Fadil, were taken from their homes at gunpoint in July.

An Umma spokesman dismissed the charges as politically motivated and ''a tactic to keep the prominent politicians out of circulation as long as possible''.

He said they faced a range of charges including planning for a war against the nation, undertaking terrorist activity and creating military training camps.

''These occurrences ... confirm what we have known all along, that is the non-neutrality of the justice institutions and the crumbling of the state of justice and law in the country, and that the matter is a mere political conspiracy,'' the Umma spokesman said.

The Umma party won the last democratic elections in Sudan and formed a coalition government with the DUP before being overthrown in a bloodless coup in 1989 and replaced by current President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Opposition groups say they have come under increasing scrutiny from authorities in the run up to Sudan's next democratic elections, due to take place in 2009.

Sudan's Justice Ministry released details of the charges against the 28 to Reuters earlier this month. But supporters said the charges were formally presented to the defendants only over the weekend.

No one from the Justice Ministry was immediately available to comment.

A second senior opposition figure detained with Mubarak al-Fadil was the deputy secretary-general of the opposition Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Ali Mahmoud Hassanein.

The Umma Party said that they both entered the 14th day of a hunger strike today to protest against their arrests.

Rights group Amnesty International said some of the 28 had been tortured during their long detention. Khartoum denied that accusation and threatened to sue the organisation.

The men are expected to appear in court in the next few days, local media reported today.

REUTERS SYU KP1745

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