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Sudan court orders company to end military-ordered internet blackout

A Sudanese protester flashes the victory gesture as he stands atop a gatehouse while others chant slogans and wave the flag of the opposition Umma Party led by Sadiq al-Mahdi, during a demonstration in the capital Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman on 25 January 2019 [AFP/Getty Images]
A Sudanese protester flashes the victory gesture as he stands atop a gatehouse while others chant slogans and wave the flag of the opposition Umma Party led by Sadiq al-Mahdi, during a demonstration in the capital Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman on 25 January 2019 [AFP/Getty Images]

A Sudanese court ordered telecoms operator Zain Sudan on Sunday to restore internet services, a lawyer said, after they were severed nearly three weeks ago when security forces dispersed protesters camping in central Khartoum, reports Reuters.

Sudan’s military rulers ordered the internet blackout as a security measure but it is harming the economy and humanitarian operations in the African nation of 40 million. The protesters are demanding the military hand power to a civilian authority.

Abdel-Adheem Hassan, a lawyer who filed his own case against Zain Sudan over the blackout, told Reuters the Khartoum District Court had ordered Zain to “immediately restore internet services to the country”.

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Sudanese courts do not confirm or deny their rulings to the media.

Zain Sudan, a subsidiary of Zain Kuwait and the largest operator in Sudan, was not immediately able to comment on the matter on Sunday. Hassan said a Zain representative had told the court in response to the petition that the company had been ordered verbally by “high authorities” to cut the internet.

Sudanese officials could not be reached for comment and it was unclear what impact Sunday’s court order would have.

The current blackout, which began on June 3, has resulted in a “near-total loss of access” for mobile and fixed line connections for most ordinary users, though connectivity had improved from 2% to 10% of normal levels by last Thursday, said Alp Toker of NetBlocks, a digital rights NGO.

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The blackout has hampered the speed and effectiveness of humanitarian operations, said Rick Brennan, regional emergencies director at the World Health Organization (WHO).

Authorities also restricted access to popular social media sites during 16 weeks of protests against veteran leader Omar Al-Bashir earlier this year. Bashir was finally ousted on April 11.

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