March 22, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — Two ethnic African women from Darfur have been sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery, while their male partners escaped punishment, a human rights activist said Thursday.
Faisal al-Bagir of the Khartoum-based Sudan Organization Against Torture said the women were tried separately in the criminal court in the town of Azaze in the central state of Al Jazirah, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
The women, identified as Saadiyah al-Fadel and Umounah Daldoum from the ethnic African Tama tribe in Darfur, were part of tribal folk working as farm laborers in the Gezira Scheme, a farming area in central Sudan.
Al-Bagir said the women were moved after trial to the prison in the city of Wad Medani, the capital of Al Jazirah. Al-Fadel, who was pronounced guilty of adultery and sentenced on April 13, is together in prison with her 18-month-old daughter, Al-Bagir said.
"Saadiyah was deserted by her husband for some time and she confessed before the court that she had got pregnant with this child from a sexual relationship with another man she had named," Bagir said.
The man was brought to the court and after he publicly dissociated himself from the act, was acquitted for lack of evidence, Bagir said. The other woman, Daldoum, had also confessed to adultery and was sentenced March 6.
Death by stoning is a punishment stipulated by the Islamic Sharia law which is observed by the Arab-dominated Sudanese authorities.
Al-Bagir branded the women’s trial as unfair. "There were no defense lawyers and the trial proceedings were in Arabic, a language the defendants do not understand," he said.
He said that human rights groups were worried about the baby daughter in prison and also about the conditions the two women are enduring while waiting for their sentence to be carried out. A number of independent lawyers have submitted an appeal to a higher court in the case, al-Bagir said, but gave no details.
Gezira Scheme is one of the world’s largest farming projects, dating back to the British in 1925 when a network of canals and ditches 4,300 kilometers long (2,700 miles) were dug to distribute water to tenant farms in the area’s 8,800 square kilometers (3,400 sq. miles) lying between the Blue and White Nile Rivers. The region’s main crop is cotton.