Home | News    Tuesday 8 September 2009

Sudan trousers journalist convicted of ‘indecent clothing’

September 7, 2009 (KHARTOUM) — A Sudanese journalist whose case has stirred international attention was convicted by a local court today of “indecent clothing” and ordered to pay a fine of 500 pounds ($200).

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Lubna Hussein, a former journalist and U.N. press officer, addresses the media after her trial in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, September 7, 2009 (Reuters)

Lubna Hussein a journalist who was also an ex-employee at the United Nations Mission Sudan (UNMIS) was arrested last July by Public Order Police (POP) along with a dozen other girls and charged with dressing inappropriately.

Hussein told Sudan Tribune at the time that the only thing in common between all those taken into custody was that they were wearing trousers.

Most of the girls picked up by POP admitted guilt for fear of being stigmatized by the society and received ten lashes while she along with two others asked their lawyers to be present and a full-blown trial.

Her case was initially heard by a judge in late July but was postponed while the court queries the foreign ministry on whether Hussein enjoyed diplomatic immunity being a UN employee.

Hussein has resigned from her post at the UN to fight the case in court and the foreign ministry confirmed that she could be prosecuted.

The case of the Sudanese journalist is not uncommon but the latter has worked to make it public by printing invitations to her trials and showing pictures of how she was dressed when arrested by POP.

Eyewitnesses who attended the trial said the judge was in an apparent rush to issue ruling and as widely expected spared her the flogging sentence stipulated under Article 152 of Sudan’s 1991 penal code.

Hussein refused to pay the fine and as such chose the one month jail sentence in the alternative.

“I won’t pay. I’d rather go to prison,” Hussein told Agence France Presse (AFP) by telephone despite advise from her lawyers to pay it. An appeal is in the works, her lawyers said.

Outside the court clashes broke out between Lubna Hussein’s supporters and opponents who called on the court to sentence her to flogging labeling all those who wear trousers as “prostitutes”.

Scores of her supporters were beaten by Sudanese police around the court and detained including the daughter of Sudan’s former Prime Minister Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi.

The head of Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) parliamentary bloc Yasir Arman said the ruling violated the constitution.

The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) issued a statement condemning the ruling and the use of excessive force by police at the court against Sudanese women protestors.

Sudanese officials have maintained silence on the case while some National Congress Party (NCP) officials said that it is blown out of proportion by circles with other agendas.