Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Monday, 21 December 2009

Sudan security law threatens free poll - SPLM

Sudanese opposition supporters shout slogans in Khartoum, 07/12
The SPLM has been campaigned for major reforms ahead of the elections

Reforms of Sudan's strict security laws do not go far enough and threaten to undermine the 2010 election, southern Sudanese politicians have said.

President Omar al-Bashir's party passed the new law, which shortens the amount of time suspects can be held.

But it keeps the right of intelligence agents to search and detain suspects.

The southern SPLM party wants those powers given to police. They say the security forces will arrest anyone campaigning against Mr Bashir.

Southern Sudan became a semi-autonomous region after two decades of north-south conflict ended in 2005.

The former rebel SPLM (Sudan People's Liberation Movement) governs the south and shares power at national level with Mr Bashir's National Congress Party but the two are rivals for the elections.

South Sudan Map

The SPLM's US ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkout says the security law allows human rights to be violated.

"Anybody who is going to campaign against Bashir and say things that seem to be threatening Bashir - they will detain you and then they will release you after the election is over," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

He said the law would not be put into force in areas controlled by the government of southern Sudan.

While the SPLM voted against the law, some MPs belonging to smaller parties walked out of parliament in protest.

Tensions have been rising between the SPLM and NCP in recent weeks - with the southern politicians accusing Mr Bashir's backers of trying to silence dissent and fix the forthcoming elections.

The country is due to hold its first national poll for more than two decades next year.

A year later the south is due to vote in a referendum on independence from Khartoum.

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