CAIRO -- Sudan's transitional government Thursday named two new appointees, including a woman, to the country's top judicial posts after weeks of pressure from pro-democracy activists demanding the original officeholders be sacked for alleged ties to former longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir.
Neamat Abdullah Mohamed Kheir, a veteran female judge, was named chief of the judiciary and Taj al-Ser Ali al-Hebr, a lawyer, was appointed the country's public prosecutor. The announcements were made by Mohamed al-Fakki Soliman, spokesman for Sudan's joint civilian-military Sovereign Council, which is ruling the country in transition.
"This way, the council would have turned a page that the Sudanese street had been preoccupied with for a long period of time," Soliman told reporters following a Sovereign Council meeting. He said the two appointees will soon examine "corruption cases and crime" committed under al-Bashir's rule.
Last month, thousands of Sudanese took to the streets demanding that the two original appointees —Yehia Abu-Shura and Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who were chosen by the military council that ruled the country for over two months after al-Bashir's ouster in April — be sacked. They insisted that independent judges be appointed before prosecuting members of the old regime as well as those responsible for a deadly crackdown on protesters in June.
Al-Bashir was removed from power by the military in April following sweeping pro-democracy protests. His ouster was followed by political unrest that reached its apex when the ruling military council decided to disperse by force the protesters' main sit-in in the capital Khartoum. The ensuing crackdown left more than 100 people dead and derailed talks between pro-democracy protesters and the military over the details of the transition period.
After several months of negotiations, a power-sharing agreement between the protest movement and the generals was signed in part because of regional and international pressure.
Kheir, who has served in the judiciary since the 1980s, is the first woman to rise to the highest judicial post in Sudan's history. Unlike many judges, she was not known to compromise her integrity to serve the interests of al-Bashir's government. However, she was widely criticized for not having supported the Sudanese uprising since its inception.
"It definitely makes me happy as a woman and as a feminist to see a woman holding a top judicial post," said Amal al-Zein, a leader of the Communist Party that was part of the ant-government movement. "But this should not be at the expense of the demands of Sudan's revolution."
Al-Zein said many activists hoped that a more outspoken judge would take over the position. However, she was not as disappointed about the newly appointed public prosecutor, saying al-Hebr was among the Sudanese lawyers widely known for their opposition to al-Bashir.
The generals had previously dismissed nominations put forward by pro-democracy protesters for the top two judicial posts. Those nominees were widely known for their staunch opposition to al-Bashir's government.
"Having a woman in this position is definitely a great breakthrough and something unheard of in the Arab region and in Africa," said Rashwa Awad, editor of online Sudanese newspaper Altaghyeer. "However, it is too early to decide whether these appointments are the best choice."