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Sudan releases jailed teacher after nine months

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January 20, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese teacher and activist Jalila Khamis Koko, who was arrested by the National Security Service (NSS), was released following a court hearing on Sunday after spending nine months in detention.

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Jalila Khamis Koko spent nine months in detention

Jalila was acquitted of all charges except those related to “spreading false news”, a vague provision of the criminal code often used by the government to silence dissent, Amnesty International said in a press release extended to Sudan Tribune.

The offence is punishable by six months in prison, but the court released her because of the nine months she had already served in pre-trial detention.

“Jalila’s release is victory for justice but the nine months that she has spent in detention simply for expressing her opinions cannot be ignored,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Africa program director.

The mother-of-six had faced the death penalty after being charged last September with five counts of crimes against the state, including undermining the constitutional system, espionage and waging war against the state.

An ethnic Nuba from South Kordofan and a member of banned opposition party the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N), Jalila was volunteering to provide humanitarian support to internally displaced people from the strife-torn region prior to her arrest.

In June 2011, she appeared in a Youtube video denouncing the conditions in conflict-affected areas of South Kordofan and calling for a ceasefire.

Home to large populations of ethnic Nuba groups, South Kordofan has been the scene of fierce fighting between the Sudanese government and opposition fighters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army - North, (SPLA-N) - the armed wing of the SPLM-N - since civil war broke out in June 2011.

Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and take cover in caves and mountains to escape the indiscriminate aerial bombardments carried out by government forces.

Amnesty International says Jalila is among numerous alleged SPLM-N activists arrested by Sudanese authorities across the country since conflict brokeout in the border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

In a recent public statement the organisation documented how Sudanese security forces and military intelligence have carried out a campaign of arrests, targeting individuals suspected of being members of the SPLM–N or their relatives, seemingly on the basis of their ethnicity.

Jalila was arrested on 15 March 2012 in Khartoum and later transferred to Omdurman prison, where she was detained up until her release.

Amnesty said Jalila’s health had deteriorated significantly during her incarceration and that she should be entitled to compensation.

“The Sudanese government must ensure that Jalila is compensated for being deprived of her freedom and separated from her family for so long,” said Gaughran.

Amnesty is also calling on the Sudanese government to ensure she is able to return to her teaching job from which she was unfairly dismissed during the course of her detention.

Jalila was initially charged with six criminal counts, five of which fall under the category of crimes against the state, including two which carry the death penalty.

However, the Khartoum North Criminal Court later dropped some of the charges against Jalila - including two that carried the death penalty – after finding that the NSS had failed to provide adequate evidence.

The rebel SPLM-N split from the southern ruling party Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in February 2011, ahead of South Sudan’s independence.

The elements that now make up the SPLM-N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile fought alongside the South Sudanese army (SPLA) during Sudan’s protracted civil war.

Khartoum has continued to accuse its neighbour of backing their former colleagues despite Juba’s claims that it has severed all ties with the group.

(ST)

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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