June 27 (Bloomberg) -- Sudanese activists called for a mass demonstration in two days to demand the end of President Umar al-Bashir’s 23 years in power, as Human Rights Watch urged the authorities to halt repression of anti-government protests.
The security forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to suppress 10 days of protests that started at Khartoum University, Human Rights Watch said today in a statement. The demonstrations started when the government raised transportation and fuel prices, boosted taxes and devalued the currency to cope with the loss of about 75 percent of the nation’s oil output when South Sudan seceded in July.
The protests have spread to at least six other cities, an activist group identifying itself as #SudanRevolts said in an e-mailed statement. The crackdown has led to the arrest of reporters and protesters, and beatings of people in detention, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
“Sudan is using these protests as an excuse to use violence and intimidation to silence dissenters,” it said in the statement. “Authorities should call off their security forces and vigilantes, end the violence immediately, and respect the right of people to protest peacefully.”
Human Rights Watch criticized the detention of Sudanese and foreign journalists covering the protests. Salma El Wardany, who reported for Bloomberg News from Sudan, was expelled by the Sudanese authorities yesterday, while Simon Martelli, a reporter for Agence France-Presse, was detained for about 14 hours on June 19.
The challenge to al-Bashir’s authority is the biggest since a sit-in at Khartoum University in December to protest police violence and demand the overthrow of the government. The protest led to the arrest of 73 students. About 400 more were detained in a raid on the campus in February.
The loss of oil revenue since South Sudan’s independence resulted in a $2.4 billion budget deficit and a surge in inflation to 30.4 percent last month.
Police have used “extreme violence” to crack down on protesters, #SudanRevolts said.
“Several hundreds have been arrested; many being released quickly but those perceived as mobilizers are being detained at National Intelligence and Security Services,” it said.
Sudanese government spokesman Kamal Obeid’s phone was switched off and Foreign Ministry spokesman al-Obeid Murawih didn’t answer his phone when called today.
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