April 28, 2006

US representatives arrested at Sudan protest

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Five members of the U.S. Congress
were arrested at the Sudanese Embassy on Friday to protest
violence in that country's Darfur region.

The lawmakers, all Democrats, were Reps. Tom Lantos of
California, James McGovern and John Olver of Massachusetts,
James Moran of Virginia, and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.

A few members of the Save Darfur Coalition also were
arrested from the gathering of about 50 demonstrators, a
spokeswoman for the coalition said.

Those arrested were taken to a police station and released
about two hours later after paying $50 fines.

The lawmakers intended their arrests to draw attention to
the Darfur conflict that the United States calls a genocide,
McGovern said.

The protest came before a planned Sunday rally on the
National Mall sponsored by the coalition, which comprises about
160 faith-based, advocacy and humanitarian organizations.
Sunday is the deadline for talks aimed at settling the
three-year conflict in Darfur.

U.N. and U.S. officials have accused the Sudanese
government of arming marauding Arab militias, who have raped,
pillaged, and killed tens of thousands in Darfur, and driven
into squalid camps some 2 million villagers. Sudan has denied
the charge.

"I don't think any human being can listen to the testimony
of the people who have fled, and see the savagery that is going
on there and not feel compelled to do something," McGovern said
in a telephone interview after his release.

The lawmakers had been told they could not trespass on the
embassy property. They made their statements off the property,
then stood on the embassy steps.

The lawmakers did not heed police warnings, and "were
arrested one by one," Lantos' spokeswoman Lynne Weil said.

"After the Holocaust, the world declared that never again
would we stand by and let genocide take place. And yet the
slaughter in Darfur continues," Lantos, a survivor of the
Holocaust, said in a statement.