Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Sudan opposition leader released

Hassan al-Turabi
Hassan al-Turabi used to be a close ally of President Bashir

A Sudanese opposition leader - jailed two months ago after calling on Sudan's president to hand himself in to the war crimes court - has been freed.

Hassan al-Turabi's son Siddig said his father had been returned to his home in Khartoum without explanation.

After his release, he again urged President Omar al-Bashir to surrender to the International Criminal Court.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Mr Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

"We don't know what is going to happen in the morning but there is no guard outside the house in Khartoum," said Siddig al-Turabi, Reuters news agency reported. "We are very happy."

As leader of the National Islamic Front and speaker of the Sudanese parliament, Hassan al-Turabi was a key ally of President Bashir until they split in a power struggle 10 years ago.

He is the leader of the Islamist Popular Congress Party and has been frequently arrested in the past.

Darfur rebels

Sudanese Justice Minister Abdul-Basset Sabdarat told the BBC Arabic Service Mr Turabi's release showed the importance of unity in the face of an external threat to Sudan - thought to be a reference to the warrant for President Bashir issued in The Hague.

Mr Sabdarat also denied that Mr Turabi's call for the president to give up to the ICC had been the cause of his detention.

He said: "We are now busy with confronting an external challenge, which requires us to heal the wounds, close ranks and work together to bring in all the national powers to face up to the dangers threatening Sudan."

Mr Turabi has been linked to the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement, an allegation he has denied.

The ICC arrest warrant for President Bashir was the first the court has served against a serving president.

Mr Bashir has rejected the charges and accused the ICC of colonialism.

The UN estimates that 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million displaced in Darfur, since black African rebels took up arms in 2003 against the Arab-dominated regime demanding a greater share of resources and power.

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