Britain hopes for 'proper' probe into Sudan editor's beating

Sudanese police patrol the streets of Khartoum, on April 10, 2010 (AFP Photo/Patrick Baz)

Khartoum (AFP) - Britain expressed hope on Sunday for a "proper" probe into an assault by armed men who left a Sudanese newspaper editor in hospital.

Gunmen raided the Al-Tayar daily on Saturday evening and severely beat chief editor Osman Mirghani, who had called for normalisation of ties with Israel.

"I hope there will be a proper investigation to discover what has happened," British ambassador Peter Tibber told reporters outside Al-Zaytouna Hospital in central Khartoum, where Mirghani was conscious and being treated.

The editor's family was with him and he was "strong", said Tibber, expressing hope that "he will be out soon and that he can recover over Eid", the festival of Eid al-Fitr which starts next week at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The violence against Mirghani was an unusual physical attack against a journalist in Sudan, although reporters regularly complain of censorship by the National Intelligence and Security Service.

About seven gunmen drove up to the newspaper's office on Saturday evening and ordered the staff to lie down, Faisal Mohamed Salih, an award-winning Sudanese journalist and press freedom advocate, told AFP, citing information from Al-Tayar reporters.

They took the reporters' mobile phones and laptops, and severed computer connections before turning on Mirghani in his office, said Salih, who won the 2013 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism.

They "started beating him in his head, in his leg, using the guns and the sticks," he said.

About 300 Sudanese journalists gathered outside Al-Tayar's office on Sunday to protest the incident, witnesses said.

They held up copies of Sunday's edition of the newspaper, which published despite the attack that it reported on its front page.

From Al-Tayar, the protesting journalists marched to the office of Sudan's press council where the body's chairman, Ali Shumo, called the incident a "terrorist attack" and called for a police investigation.

In a statement carried by the official SUNA news agency, police said "unidentified persons" carried out the assault.

It occurred just a few days after Mirghani called on local television for Islamist Sudan to normalise relations with Israel, Salih said.

Mirghani's comments came during an Israeli military operation which, the Jewish state says, targets militants in the Gaza strip where the death toll on Sunday reached 425 after 13 days.

Israeli officials have long accused Sudan of serving as a base of support for Islamist Hamas militants.

President Omar al-Bashir earlier this month met Khaled Meshaal, the exiled Hamas chief, in the Gulf state of Qatar.

Sudan ranked near the bottom, at 170 out of 179, in the Reporters Without Borders 2013 World Press Freedom Index.

Government officials including Bashir's top assistant, Ibrahim Ghandour, and the Khartoum state governor, visited Mirghani at the hospital.