A protester was killed and dozens wounded when police in Belarus used stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas to disperse demonstrators disputing election results, a prominent rights group said on Monday.
The Viasna Human Rights Centre said the young male protester suffered a traumatic head injury when he was hit by a police vehicle and medics were unable to save him.
Viasna representative Sergey Sys told AFP that more than 300 people had been arrested on Sunday, including more than 150 in the capital Minsk.
“Dozens of people were wounded as a result of clashes with law enforcement agencies. Ten of them were taken to hospitals,” he said.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova denied there had been any deaths.
“We have no dead,” she told AFP.
More than 200 detained
At least 213 people were detained in Belarus as police cracked down on protesters claiming strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko rigged Sunday’s presidential election, a prominent rights group said on Monday.
The Viasna Human Rights Centre said at least 110 people were detained in the capital Minsk, including at least 40 at or near polling stations and 70 during a pro-opposition protest. Others were detained in various cities.
The Organization of American States recommended Sunday canceling the first round of the Bolivian elections, held three weeks ago and claimed by the opposition as fraudulent, and holding new elections.
“The first round of the elections held last October 20 must be annulled and the electoral process must begin again, the first round taking place as soon as there are new conditions that give new guarantees for it to take place, including a newly composed electoral body,” the organization said in a press release, as thousands of Bolivians are preparing to enter a fourth week of protests demanding the annulment of the elections and the resignation of President Evo Morales.
Four Sudanese school students were among five demonstrators shot dead Monday during a rally against shortages of bread and fuel, a day before protest leaders and ruling generals are set to hold new talks on the country’s transition.
Authorities announced a night-time curfew in four towns following the deaths in the central town of Al-Obeid, as a key protest group called for nationwide rallies against the “massacre”.
The ruling military council and protest leaders earlier this month inked a power-sharing deal providing for a joint civilian-military administration which in turn would install civilian rule.
That is the main demand of a nationwide protest movement that led to the April ouster of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir and has since demanded that the generals who took his place cede power to civilians.
But on the eve of Tuesday’s talks aimed at resolving outstanding issues over the transition, five protesters were killed in Al-Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan state, said a doctors’ committee linked to the protest movement.
“Five martyrs succumbed to direct wounds from sniper bullets during a peaceful rally in Al-Obeid,” the committee said in a statement.
Prominent protest leader Babikir Faisal told AFP that the dead included “four high school students”.
Al-Obeid residents and a local journalist also confirmed that the dead included high schoolers.
A key protest group, the Sudanese Professionals Association, said “live ammunition” had been used against a “rally of school students”.
In a post on its Facebook page, it urged “all citizens and medics” to head to hospitals treating the wounded.
In a separate statement, it called for nationwide protests against the “massacre,” demanding that “the perpetrators be brought to justice”.
Hundreds of protesters later rallied in Khartoum’s two districts of Bahri and Burri, but they were swiftly confronted by riot police who fired tear gas, witnesses said.
The office of North Kordofan’s governor announced an overnight curfew in four towns including Al-Obeid, starting Monday and continuing indefinitely.
It added that all schools in the province had been told to suspend classes.
Calls to suspend talks
Residents of Al-Obeid said the rally had been over a shortage of bread and fuel in the town.
It was a sudden tripling of bread prices that initially triggered December protests against Bashir, which later turned into a nationwide movement against his three-decade rule.
“For the past few days there has been a shortage of fuel and bread,” an Al-Obeid resident told AFP by telephone.
“School children were affected as there is no transport to help them reach their schools. Today, they staged a rally and when it reached downtown there were shots fired.”
The town had not previously witnessed major rallies against Bashir even as provinces, cities and towns were swept up by the campaign against his rule.
Monday’s deaths sparked calls for talks set for Tuesday to be suspended.
“We cannot sit at the negotiating table with those allowing the killing of revolutionaries,” Siddig Youssef, a prominent protest leader, said in a statement.
Tuesday’s talks were set to cover issues including the powers of the joint civilian-military ruling body, the deployment of security forces and immunity for generals over protest-related violence, according to protest leaders.
The power-sharing deal agreed on July 17 provided for the establishment of a new governing body of six civilians and five generals.
It was then to oversee the formation of a transitional civilian government and parliament to govern for 39 months, followed by elections.
Khartoum has seen angry demonstrations since Saturday, when investigators announced the results of a probe showing into a deadly crackdown on a protest camp.
Shortly before dawn on June 3, gunmen in military fatigues raided the site of a weeks-long sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, shooting and beating protesters.
Doctors linked to the protest movement say the raid left 127 people dead and scores wounded.
But the joint investigation by prosecutors and the ruling military council that took power following Bashir’s ouster found that just 17 people were killed on June 3, with a total of 87 dying between that day and June 10.
The probe identified eight officers involved in the violent crackdown on the protest camp, including three from the feared Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group.
But protest leaders have rejected the findings, saying the inquiry exonerated the military council and gave a far lower death toll than their own figures.
The investigation “was commissioned by the military council, this is challenging its integrity as the military council itself is accused in this case,” said the Sudanese Professionals Association.
Demonstrators have called for an independent investigation into the raid.
The country’s ruling generals have insisted they did not order the dispersal of the sit-in.
Seven people were killed Sunday as tens of thousands of Sudanese protesters took to the streets to demand civilian rule in the first mass rally since a bloody crackdown on demonstrators — a show of street power despite heavy troop deployments by the ruling generals.
The “million-man” march had been seen as a test for protest organisers after their push for civilian rule was hit by the June 3 raid on a Khartoum protest camp and a subsequent internet blackout that curbed their ability to mobilise support.
Dozens of demonstrators were killed and hundreds wounded when armed men in military fatigues stormed the sit-in on June 3 outside army headquarters, shooting and beating protesters who had camped there since April 6.
On Sunday, police fired tear gas on protesters approaching the presidential palace after organisers called for a march on the building that houses offices of the ruling transitional military council, an AFP correspondent reported.
“We call on our revolutionary people in the capital to go to the republican palace… to seek justice for the martyrs and for an unconditional transfer of power to civilians,” the Sudanese Professionals Association that first launched protests against now ousted ruler Omar al-Bashir said on Twitter.
Police also fired tear gas at protesters in the northern Khartoum district of Bahri and in Mamura and Arkweit, in the capital’s east, as thousands of protesters chanted “Civilian rule! Civilian rule!”, witnesses said.
“We’re fed up with the military. For decades this country has been ruled by the military. It didn’t work and it will not work,” said protester Nada Adel, 28.
“Despite what they did at the sit-in, despite the people they killed… the revolution will not die in the hearts of the youth.”
‘I’m the next martyr’
Elsewhere, security forces used tear gas to disperse protests in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman and the eastern town of Gadaref.
Late on Sunday the official SUNA news agency quoting a health ministry official said “seven were killed” in the protests, without elaborating how they died or who they were.
It said that another 181 people were wounded, including 27 with bullets.
Separately 10 members of regular forces were also wounded, including three from the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces shot by “live ammunition,” it said.
Earlier a doctors’ committee linked to the protest movement said that five protesters had been killed during the day, including four in Omdurman.
It also said that several more were seriously wounded by gunshots fired by “the military council militias”.
The deputy chief of the ruling military council said that unknown snipers had shot at least three members of RSF and five or six civilians in Omdurman.
“There are infiltrators, people who want to jeopardise progress,” General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who also commands the RSF said at a rally.
Men and women flashing victory signs and carrying Sudanese flags flooded the streets of Al-Sahafa neighbourhood of Khartoum.
“No one gave a mandate to the military council, all the people are against the council,” said a protester who shouted out “I’m the next martyr.”
Marchers also passed by the homes of those killed on June 3 as onlookers cheered and motorists honked horns.
Thousands also protested in the cities of Port Sudan, Al-Obeid, Madani and Khasma el-Girba, witnesses said.
The SPA described the protest as “monumental and unique”.
“Not only because of the unprecedented huge crowds, but because the masses have committed themselves to peace and chosen the path of non-violence to achieve their revolutionary goals.”
The RSF was deployed in pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns in several Khartoum squares.
Prior to Sunday’s deaths, at least 128 people were killed since the June 3 crackdown, the majority of them on that day, according to doctors close to the protest movement.
The health ministry says 61 people died nationwide on June 3.
The military council insists it did not order the dispersal of the sit-in, but acknowledged “excesses” after orders were given to purge a nearby area allegedly notorious for drug peddling.
The council has warned it would hold the protest movement “entirely responsible if any soul is lost” in Sunday’s protests.
The June 3 raid came after talks collapsed over who should lead a new governing body — a civilian or soldier.
Ethiopia and the AU, who are mediating between the generals and protest leaders, have proposed a blueprint for a civilian-majority body, which the generals say could be a basis for resuming talks.
Protesters had initially gathered at the military headquarters in April to seek the army’s support in ousting Bashir.
They kept up their sit-in to demand civilian rule after the generals deposed the president on April 11, until it was violently dispersed.
Clashes between Sudanese anti-riot police and protesters in demonstrations against a rise in bread prices have killed 19 people, including two security force personnel, the government said Thursday.
“Nineteen people lost their lives in the incidents including two from security forces,” government spokesman Boshara Juma said on state television, adding that 219 people were wounded.
Sudanese authorities had previously said that eight people have been killed in clashes in Khartoum and several other cities since the protests began on December 19.
Sudan Islamist party urges probe into the killing of protesters
Sudan’s top Islamist party, a member of President Omar al-Bashir’s government, called Wednesday for a probe into the killings of protesters in demonstrations that have rocked the economically troubled country.
Angry crowds have taken to the streets in Khartoum and several other cities since December 19 when the government tripled the price of bread
Sudanese authorities had said eight protesters have been killed in clashes, but Amnesty International has put the death toll at 37.
At a press conference in Khartoum, Popular Congress Party senior official Idris Suleman said his party’s own reports indicated that 17 people “were martyred” and 88 wounded in the demonstrations.
Condemning the killings, the party, founded by late Islamist leader Hassan Turabi, urged the authorities to find those responsible.
“We call on the government to launch an investigation into the killings,” Suleman said.
“Those who committed these killings must be held accountable.”
Popular Congress Party is part of Bashir’s government and has two ministers of state in the cabinet and seven lawmakers in parliament.
Turabi, who died in March 2016, was a leading force behind the 1989 coup that brought Bashir to power, ushering in an Islamist regime that hosted Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden from 1992 to 1996 in Sudan.
Turabi founded Popular Congress Party after he was dismissed from Bashir’s National Congress Party amid a power struggle a decade after the coup.
Police and security officers remained deployed in several parts of the Sudanese capital on Wednesday, but no new demonstration had been staged so far.
Bashir has sought to tamp down the discontent by vowing to “take real reforms” to solve Sudan’s economic woes.
But his statements appear to have done little to appease protesters angered by financial hardships.
Sudan is mired in economic difficulties including an acute foreign currency shortage and soaring inflation.
The crisis has worsened despite the lifting of an economic embargo by the United States in October 2017.
Inflation is running at close to 70 percent and the Sudanese pound has plunged in value, while shortages in bread and fuel have been reported across several cities including Khartoum.
Since the start of the protest movement, Sudanese authorities had arrested several anti-government figures with liberal and communist backgrounds.
Francisco Alfonso had never voted or taken part in a demonstration before, but that all changed when Catalonia’s leaders tried to break the wealthy northeastern region away from Spain.
“Before, you kept quiet, you didn’t say anything,” said the 37-year-old plumber, a pro-unity supporter from the working-class town of Santa Coloma de Gramenet near Barcelona.
But after Catalonia’s separatist government went ahead with a banned independence referendum on October 1, and the region’s parliament declared independence three weeks later, “you realise you have to hit the streets”, he said.
“If we didn’t, this would be a jungle. They are separating us from Spain, companies are leaving, the economy is going downhill,” he added, in a reference to the over 3,000 firms that have moved their legal headquarters away since the vote.
For years, separatists monopolised attention — red and yellow striped independence flags draped balconies and flew above dozens of town halls, while Spanish flags were scarce. Meanwhile, grassroots independence groups staged massive rallies.
But the regional government’s separatist drive has led many Catalan opponents of independence, like Alfonso, to become more vocal about their pride in being Spanish.
Those feelings have intensified as Catalonia prepares to vote on Thursday in a regional election that could chart the course of Spain’s secession crisis.
After the referendum, pro-unity supporters began to hang Spanish flags across Catalonia and staged their own mass demonstrations, including one in Barcelona on October 8 that drew hundreds of thousands of people.
“Never in my life had I owned a Spanish flag,” said Alfonso’s friend Mara Jose Gonzalez, a 63-year-old housewife who bought one for a rally.
“The first day I used it I was afraid, but the second time I felt a sort of liberation,” she added before heading to a campaign rally for pro-unity party Ciudadanos with her husband and Alfonso.
– ‘Vote clearly’ – Set up in 2006 to fight Catalan nationalism, Ciudadanos has grown from a minor party into a front-runner which tops opinion polls ahead of Thursday’s election.
At campaign rallies supporters bear signs featuring a heart made up of the flags of Spain, Catalonia and the European Union.
Turnout is expected to be high for the knife-edge election — especially in traditionally anti-separatist areas where people do not usually participate in regional politics.
“Voting for Ciudadanos is voting clearly. It is voting for union unreservedly,” the leader of Ciudadanos in Catalonia, Ines Arrimadas, told reporters recently.
Originally from Jerez de la Frontera in the southwestern region of Andalusia, Arrimadas speaks perfect Catalan and is married to a former nationalist Catalan lawmaker, making her a perfect symbol of the diversity that makes up the region’s society in the eyes of many voters.
“She is the one who represents me best,” said Ana Maria Gonzalez, 73, after taking a picture with Arrimidas in Figueras, the birthplace of surrealist artist Salvador Dali in northern Catalonia.
– ‘So much scorn hurts’ – Gonzalez was born in Seville, the capital of Andalusia, but moved to Figueras when she was 20, part of a vast influx of migrants from poorer regions of Spain to Catalonia.
“They have always treated us well, I got along well with everyone but these last few months we have had a hard time,” she said, her eyes welling with tears.
Supporters of Catalan independence “attack you because you don’t speak Catalan or for wearing this,” she added, pointing to a lapel pin on her jacket with the Ciudadanos logo.
“I am just as Catalan as them. I have worked my entire life here. We also helped build all of this. Up until now we did not say anything but we are tired of being attacked and insulted.”
A former president of the Catalan regional parliament said Arrimadas should return to Andalusia while a top Catalan author described migrants who have moved to Catalonia as “colonisers” in an opinion article.
“So much scorn hurts,” said Gonzalez.
Ricardo Brau, a 17-year-old student, listened as he is called “facha”, or fascist, in the centre of Barcelona because he was carrying a Spanish flag.
“My family is Catalan, I am Catalan, but I also feel Spanish and I am proud to be so. I am tired of hiding it. But here, if you are not separatist, it seems like you are no longer Catalan,” he said.
Before he finished talking, a man wearing a safety pin calling for the release of Catalan leaders jailed for rebellion and other crimes over their separatist drive bumped into him.
“See? This is what riles me up. And then we are the ones who are not democratic,” he said.