Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Alleged Turabi Assailant Arraigned

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Alleged Turabi Assailant Arraigned

Article excerpt

Alleged Turabi Assailant Arraigned

The trial in Ottawa of Hashim Bedreddin Mohammed has become a cause célèbre for his fellow Sudanese political exiles in Canada. The opponent of Sudan's Islamist military government is charged with assaulting Sudanese Islamist leader Hassan Al Turabi on May 25 (see the July 1992 Washington Report). Turabi spent nearly a month in an Ottawa hospital guarded by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police before returning to Sudan on June 20.

Turabi heads the National Islamic Front (NIF), the political party allied with the military government of Lt. Gen. Omar Al Bashir. General Bashir seized power in Sudan on June 30, 1989, but it soon became apparent that Turabi and the NIF were in control. Most important cabinet positions are held by NIF members and, although he holds no official position, Turabi is generally described as the most powerful person in the country.

Turabi's visit to Canada, after speaking engagements in the United States, was highly controversial. The Sudanese community in Canada was "outraged and dismayed" by Turabi's visit, according to a statement by the African Sudanese Association of Canada (ASAC). Peaceful protests were held in Toronto and Ottawa.

Questions were raised in the House of Commons about the purpose of Turabi's visit and his status while in Canada. Liberal MP Jim Peterson demanded to know why the NIF leader was allowed into Canada at all, and why members of the Conservative government had agreed to meet with him. Peterson cited Amnesty International and Africa Watch allegations of "house arrest, torture houses, disappearances, amputations, summary executions, and crucifixions" administered by the Sudanese government.

"Turabi came to Canada as a delegate from his government," said Conservative MP Don Blenkarn. "He came to discuss politics and business arrangements. He has lots of influence in Sudan." Blenkarn added that Turabi and the Sudanese government wanted to do business with Canada in transportation, banking, communications and pharmaceuticals.

Turabi was interviewed at the Ministry of External Affairs in Ottawa on May 25 and was to lunch with Conservative MPs Blenkarn, Allan Redway and Harry Chadwick in Toronto on May 26. The meeting was cancelled when Turabi was hospitalized following the confrontation at the Ottawa airport, where both had gone separately for flights to Toronto. Mohammed had participated in an anti-Turabi demonstration at the External Affairs office shortly before the incident. …

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