CAIRO (AP) — The doctors' union in Sudan said Friday that a government crackdown on weeks of protests has left at least 57 people dead, including three who allegedly died of torture in police custody.
The death toll is expected to climb because some of the wounded protesters are in serious condition, the Doctors' Syndicate said in a statement.
Sudan has been gripped by nationwide anti-government protests since mid-December. The demonstrations were triggered by rising prices and shortages but quickly shifted to calls for autocratic President Omar al-Bashir to step down.
The doctor's union alleged authorities trying to disperse protests have used tear gas excessively, including in residential areas, in homes and in hospitals.
The union said 28 doctors have been detained, and one was shot dead while treating wounded protesters.
Hundreds of protesters have been wounded, according to previous reports by activists who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The union's statement came a day after a chief investigator concluded that Ahmed al-Khair, a 33-year-old school teacher who died in detention a week ago, had been beaten to death. The government has claimed he died of food poisoning.
Amer Ibrahim, the head of the Supreme Investigation Committee, said Thursday that forensic reports showed al-Khair was beaten across his body causing complications that led to his death.
Al-Khair was detained by Sudanese authorities after protests in the town of Khashm el-Girba in Kassala province. The teacher's death in custody has become a rallying cry for the protesters.
Unpopular economic policies helped trigger the unrest.
A devaluation of the currency in October drove up prices. The lifting of state subsidies on bread proved to be the final blow that sparked the protests. A cash crunch also led to long lines at cash machines and limits on cash withdrawals. A fuel shortage meant hours-long waits at gas stations.
Al-Bashir, who seized power in a military coup in 1989, insists that only elections, which he intends to contest, will result in change. Wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court, al-Bashir has repeatedly warned that the protests could plunge Sudan into the kind of chaos convulsing other countries in the region.
In December, the Sudanese parliament, which is packed with members of al-Bashir's National Congress party, demanded a constitutional amendment to enable the president to serve an unlimited presidential term. He was elected in 2010 and 2015.