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Hassan al Turabi
Dr. Hassan ĎAbd Allah al-Turabi (الدكتور حسن عبد الله الترابي in Arabic), commonly called Hassan al-Turabi (sometimes transliterated Hassan al-Tourabi) (حسن الترابي), is a political and religious leader in Sudan, who may have been instrumental in institutionalizing Islamic Sharia law in the northern part of the country.
He was influential as a government figure under several heads of state in the country, but is currently in a Khartoum prison, put there on the orders of his one-time ally, current president Omar al-Bashir.
Recent reports have suggested that (as of 2004), Turabi is associated with the JEM (Justice and Equality Movement), an Islamist armed rebel group which is involved in the Darfur conflict. Turabi himself has denied these claims.
The Appendix of the 9/11 Commission Report calls Turabi "Sudan's longtime hard-line ideological leader and Speaker of the country's National Assembly during the 1990s." Turabi was leader of the National Islamic Front, a powerful political faction in Sudan. The Front attempts to impose sharia law upon the country, even though radical Islamists form a small minority of the population.
Early life and Family
As a youth Turabi received an Islamic education, and went on to earn graduate-level degrees at universities in Sudan and abroad:
- B.A. in Law, Khartoum University 1951-1955
- M.A. in Law, University of London 1955-1957
- Ph.D. in Law, Sorbonne, Paris, 1959-1964
After graduating, he returned to Sudan and became a member of the Islamic Charter Front, an offshoot of the Sudanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. He became Secretary general of that party in 1964, and remained until Gaafar Nimeiry assumed power in a 1969 coup. The members of Islamic Charter Front were arrested, and Turabi spent six years in custody and three in exile in Libya.
But in the first change of many in what would be a convoluted political career, Turabi would become reconciled to Nimeiry in 1979, when he became attorney general.
The Nimeiry administration declared the imposition of a harsh brand of Sharia Law in 1983. Popular dissent with legal measures such as the dissolution of the Sudanese parliament, and with punishments such as amputations and hangings, resulted in a coup against Nimeiry in 1985.
Turabi protected Osama bin Laden when the al Qaeda leader based his operations in Sudan from around 1990-1996, at Turabi's invitation. Bin Laden himself moved from Saudi Arabia to Sudan in 1991, in part because of conflict between Bin Laden and the Saudi government over the government's refusing his lobbies to allow him to organize a jihad to banish Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and choosing instead to permit the United States to station troops in Saudi Arabi as part of its effort to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. Turabi granted Bin Laden a safe and friendly haven from which to conduct jihadist activities; in return, Bin Laden agreed to help the Sudanese government in roadbuilding and to fight African Christian separatists in Southern Sudan.
Turabi founded the annual Popular Arab and Islamic Conference (also sometimes called the Congress) around 1991. Meeting here were several radical Islamic groups from around the world, including representatives from the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hamas, Egyptian Jihad , Algerian Islamic Jihad , and Hezbollah.
"Turabi sought to persuade Shiites and Sunnis to put aside their divisions and join against the common enemy. In late 1991 or 1992, discussions in Sudan between al Qaeda and Iranian operatives led to an informal agreement to cooperate in providing support-even if only training-for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States. Not long afterward, senior al Qaeda operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives." -- 9/11 Commission Report, Chapter 2
Turabi's Conferences continued until around 1999, when his power in Sudan slipped due to political turbulence.
- Sudan Update's entry on the National Islamic Front
- Biography of Hassan al Turabi from Human Rights Watch
- Guardian article at the time of his March 2004 arrest
- Text of a speech given by Turabi before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee
- Chapter 2 of 9/11 Commission Report Turabi is described in Section 2.3
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