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Sudan president says 58 to be tried over protests

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudan's president said Monday that 58 people will face trial for their alleged role in violent protests against the government last month.

A government decision to remove fuel subsidies set off a week of protests and rioting beginning on Sept. 22. In some places, protests turned into a call for the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir, who has ruled the country for more than two decades.

Al-Bashir told the Sudanese parliament that an investigation into the unrest showed that the 58 were involved in acts of "subversion and killings." He accused some protesters of wanting to use "recent economic decisions" as a pretext to topple the government.

They "sought to agitate to get people to join demonstrations" and mobilized "criminal groups, who committed subversion, sabotage, looting and killing," al-Bashir said in a televised speech. Security forces fired on marchers and at least 50 protesters are estimated to have died in the unrest. Hundreds have been detained.

Al-Bashir's speech comes just days after Sudan's leading reformist in the country's ruling party said he will form his own party. He had been suspended for condemning the government's crackdown on protests, the latest sign of growing disenchantment among some political elites with al-Bashir.

Ghazi Salah Eddin, a former presidential adviser, made the announcement Saturday as he and other members of the ruling National Congress Party signed a petition calling for reversing austerity measures and investigating the killings of protesters.

Sudan's economic hardships stem in part from the loss of most of its main oil-producing territory when South Sudan broke off and became an independent state in 2011. Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on allegations linked to the conflict in Sudan's western region of Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have died since 2003 due to fighting between government-backed tribes and rebels.

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