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In Sudan, about 2,000 demonstrators have been arrested in a recent wave of protests. About a dozen of these democracy campaigners are expected to go on trial next week. Some are facing terrorism charges that could mean a death sentence, including one American resident. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has the story.
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OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Some are calling it Sudan's summer, more than a year after the Arab Spring and the uprisings that swept across Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)
QUIST-ARCTON: Peaceful protests began with university students taking to the streets of the capital, Khartoum, in June to demonstrate against the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the high cost of living in Sudan. Others have joined them. Among the protestors was Rudwan Dawod. He's been working for a U.S.-based NGO called Sudan Sunrise, building schools and rebuilding churches in South Sudan.
Dawod - a Muslim from troubled Darfur - is also a member of the youth movement Girifna, which in Arabic means we're fed up. On the third of July, Dawod was detained. His wife, Nancy Williams Dawod, speaking by phone from Oregon, said her husband travelled to Khartoum to visit his family.
NANCY WILLIAMS DAWOD: And, of course, Rudwan wanted to help Girifna in sending their message of peace and justice through non-violent demonstrations. So he and other Girifna members had organized and led a peaceful protest on July 3rd. That's when I first heard that he had been arrested.
QUIST-ARCTON: Williams Dawod said a dear friend called her up to let her know.
DAWOD: I later learned that they took Rudwan to a police station nearby, and they beat him so bad he was unconscious. They then took him to his home with armed men and they arrested his father - an elderly man - and his brother. And all this time, Rudwan was in the car, unconscious. And they ransacked the home. They stole their rent money and valuables, and even the earrings out of his sister's ears.
QUIST-ARCTON: Dawod and others are facing several charges, including terrorism, which could be punishable by death. The Sudanese Embassy in Washington declined to comment specifically about his case, but issued a statement saying some opportunists have capitalized on the protests to inspire chaos or smear Sudan's image.
The State Department has condemned the crackdown and arrests by the Sudanese security forces. Amnesty International and New York-based Human Rights Watch have also weighed in. Human Rights Watch researcher Jehanne Henry says the authorities are trying to discredit the opposition, including Dawod's group, Girifna.
JEHANNE HENRY: There are now fears that security forces have gone so far as to hack into the youth activists' Facebook and Skype and phones and, in one incident, to actually call somebody to meet them somewhere, and that person was arrested.
QUIST-ARCTON: Dawod's wife Nancy in Oregon says she understands her husband's dedication and commitment to Sudan, but right now she has just one wish.
DAWOD: We just keep praying that he'll be home soon, especially before our little baby girl, Sudan Nyla - I call her Nylie. He calls her Sudan. And I just want Rudwan here when she's born.
QUIST-ARCTON: Their baby is due in September.
Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.