Outspoken al-Bashir opponent released

KHARTOUM - Sudan released an Islamist opposition leader yesterday, two months after he was detained for calling on President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to surrender to the International Criminal Court.

Hassan al-Turabi, 76, flown to his home in the capital Khartoum in the early hours without explanation, made clear he had not changed his view that al-Bashir should give himself up to the court, which issued an arrest warrant last week.

"Of course, no doubt about it," said al-Turabi at his home, where scores of well-wishers had gathered. "The more justice we have ... the more we improve our international relations."

The Hague-based court issued a warrant against al-Bashir last week to face charges of orchestrating war crimes in the western Darfur region, where international experts say almost six years of conflict have killed more than 200000 people.

Al-Turabi, al-Bashir's close political and religious ally until a split in 1999/2000, had said the president should submit to the court to save Sudan from sanctions and political turmoil that would follow if he resisted.

Most opposition figures in Sudan have said little about the case or rallied around the president, describing the charges as a Western and Zionist plot against Sudan.

Al-Turabi, leader of the Islamist Popular Congress Party and a central figure in Sudan for decades, was the spiritual mentor behind al-Bashir's government when it took power in a 1989 coup.

In the 1990s when Sudan hosted al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, al-Turabi was widely seen as the driving force behind Khartoum's promotion of militant Islamist groups. - Reuters