Dr. Ushari Ahmed Mahmoud has been imprisoned in the Sudan for 18 months, apparently because the government is upset about his report detailing a massacre of civilians by militia.

Amnesty International wants Utahns to work together to free him.The group is asking states to "adopt" victims of human rights abuse and work to free them by sending letters and asking their congressional delegations to help.

"Many people don't realize that they have the power to stop human rights abuses. On behalf of the 400,000 members of Amnesty International in the United States, I invite the people of Utah to join in the struggle to protect human rights throughout the world," said John G. Healey, executive director of the group.

A similar campaign in 1989 helped free 35 of 52 prisoners selected for state campaigns.

Mahmoud, a university professor, has been imprisoned without charges against him since July, 1989. Amnesty International says he is probably in jail because of his report about a 1987 massacre at Al-Daien where hundreds of unarmed civilians belonging to the Dinka ethnic group were killed by pro-government militia from the Rizeigat ethnic group.

He has been arrested twice before because of the report - once briefly for questioning shortly after it was published, and once nine months later for two weeks. When released, he was forbidden to travel abroad.

In June 1989, the elected civilian government of Sadiq al Mahdi was overthrown in a military coup, and many political leaders, trade unionists, academics and lawyers were arrested and detained - including Mahmoud.

Amnesty International said a government minister reportedly threatened Mahmoud with indefinite detention if he did not retract his report. Mahmoud refused, and was moved to the Shalla prison in Darfur province.

Amnesty International said conditions there are harsh, with prisoners almost dying of thirst in scorching desert heat - often going whole days without water living in air full of flies attracted by open prison sewers.