Demonstrators chant slogans at a mass anti-government protest at the Nyala market. Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Retuers
About 100 Sudanese judges demanding civilian rule marched on Thursday from the Supreme Court in Khartoum towards an opposition sit-in outside the Defence Ministry, joining anti-government protests for the first time, a Reuters witness said.
Wearing their black robes, some of the judges carried signs reading "judges for change" as they marched through central Khartoum, the witness said.
"Civilian, civilian, protected by the judiciary," they chanted.
Sudan's Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the opposition have been at loggerheads over how long it will take to move to civilian rule after the military removed Omar Al Bashir as president on April 11.
After ousting Bashir following months of protests against his 30-year rule, the military established the TMC to run Sudan for a period of up to two years.
Thursday's march is the first by judges in Sudan since before Bashir took power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989.
"We demand reform of the judiciary until justice prevails and corruption is prosecuted," appeals judge Abu Al Fattah Mohamed Othman told Reuters.
"We demand the removal of symbols of the former regime from the judiciary and the dismissal of the head of the judiciary to achieve justice."
A Sudanese protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask waves a national flag outside the defence ministry compound in Khartoum. Umit Bektas / Reuters
Shortly after the march began, the TMC announced it would retain "sovereign authority only," while civilians would hold the post of prime minister and head all government ministries.
"The Transitional Military Council has the sovereign authority only, while the head of the cabinet, the civilian government and all the executive authority will be completely civilian," TMC spokesman Shams El Din Kabbashi told al Arabiya television.
The opposition has demanded a rapid handover of power to civilians. The sit-in outside the Defence Ministry, which began five days before Bashir's removal, has continued as protest leaders press for faster and deeper change.
The Sudanese Professionals' Association, which spearheaded the anti-Bashir protests, called for a million-strong march to take place at the Defence Ministry on Thursday.
On Wednesday evening, the opposition and the TMC agreed to form a committee to resolve their differences.
Three TMC members resigned, the TMC said late on Wednesday, but their resignations are yet to be accepted.
"The Transitional Military Council declares that the doors of dialogue and negotiation are open.
On Tuesday, the SPA and witnesses said security forces tried to break up a protester sit-in outside Khartoum's Defence Ministry. The group instead encouraged protesters to put up more barriers and continue their demonstration.
Sudan military chiefs resign
Three members of Sudan's ruling military council resigned Wednesday after it said it reached "agreement on most demands" with protest leaders who have called for a million-strong march to demand a civilian government.
The 10-member military council had invited the protest leaders for a meeting after the leaders suspended talks with the army rulers on Sunday.
"We have an agreement on most demands presented in the document of the Alliance for Freedom and Change," Lieutenant General Shamseddine Kabbashi, spokesman of the ruling military council, told reporters after the meeting between the council and leaders of the umbrella group leading the protest movement.
He did not elaborate on the key demand of handing power to a civilian government, but said there "were no big disputes".
One of the protest leaders who attended the meeting, Ahmed al-Rabia, said the two sides had also agreed to form a joint committee, but did not elaborate for what.
Minutes later in a separate statement the military council announced that three members of the ruling body had resigned.
They were Lieutenant General Omar Zain al-Abdin, Lieutenant General Jalaluddin Al-Sheikh and Lieutenant General Al-Tayieb Babikir.
Wednesday's late night developments came as Siddiq Farouk, one of the leaders of the protests, told reporters that the demonstrators were "preparing for a general strike" if the ruling military council refuses to hand power to a civilian administration.
"We have an agreement on most demands presented in the document of the Alliance for Freedom and Change.
He also said that a "million-strong march" is planned, confirming a call for the mammoth protest Thursday by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the group that initially launched protests against longtime leader Omar al-Bashir in December.
For the first time, Sudanese judges said they would join an ongoing sit-in outside army headquarters "to support change and for an independent judiciary".
The demonstrations initially began in the central town of Atbara on December 19 against a decision by Bashir's government to triple bread prices.
They swiftly turned into nationwide rallies against his rule and that of the military council that took his place.
Thousands have camped outside the military headquarters in central Khartoum since before Bashir was deposed, and have vowed not to leave the area until their demand has been met.
Leaders of an umbrella protest movement remain at loggerheads with army generals, who seized power after ousting president Omar al-Bashir last month, over who should lead a new governing body -- a civilian or a soldier.
Sudanese activists and officials say a diplomatic push by the US and its Arab allies was key to ending a weekslong standoff that raised fears of all-out civil war.
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