Sudan court denies opposition detainees bail as trial starts

Sudanese supporters of opposition leader Faruk Abu Issa gather to protest as he arrives to court for a hearing in his trial in the capital Khartoum on February 23, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ebrahim Hamid) (AFP/File)

Khartoum (AFP) - A Sudanese judge Monday refused to release on bail two opposition figures detained since December for signing an alliance of anti-government groups, after a prosecutor demanded six charges against them.

The anti-terrorism court denied bail to Farouk Abu Issa and Amin Makki Madani after hearing the prosecutor's case, setting the next hearing for Monday March 2, according to an AFP correspondent at the trial.

The judge will decide whether to charge them after hearing from prosecution witnesses.

Abu Issa and Madani were detained on December 6 after signing the Sudan Call agreement, aimed at uniting opposition to President Omar al-Bashir, along with other political parties and rebel groups.

"The document called for the fall of the regime by any means, including military action and popular uprisings, and this constitutes a terrorist act," prosecutor Yasir Ahmed Mohamed told a judge.

The prosecutor is seeking six charges against the two, including founding and running a terrorist organisation as well as inciting war and hatred against the state.

Five of the charges carry the death penalty.

The judge said because the two were being investigated for capital offences they could not be released on bail.

The courtroom was packed with supporters of the two, many of whom clapped and embraced them as they entered.

Representatives from seven foreign diplomatic missions also attended.

As the hearing took place around 300 people gathered outside, watched over by a heavy security presence, chanting and shouting slogans demanding Abu Issa and Madani's release.

The Sudan Call opposition accord came amid preparations in Sudan for April elections that are widely expected to extend Bashir's 25 years in power.

Abu Issa signed for a grouping of opposition parties he leads and Madani signed for civil society groups.