Home | News    Sunday 20 May 2007

Group holds sit-in to protest closure of Sudanese newspaper


May 19, 2007 (KHARTOUM) — More than one hundred people staged a sit-in Saturday outside the offices of an independent daily newspaper that was shut down after publishing a column criticizing Sudan’s justice minister.

The group, which included journalists, politicians and lawyers, pledged in a statement to sit for 24 hours in a sign of solidarity with the Al Sudani newspaper and called for the dismissal of Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi.

"The justice minister ... is trying to settle personal scores, an attitude which shows that he is not qualified to assume this important position and for this reason we call for his dismissal," the group’s statement said.

The demonstration came two days after the paper was closed and editor-in-chief Mahjoub Urwah and columnist Osman Mirghani were detained by the government.

The source of the dispute was a column by Mirghani calling on Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi to resign for lying about a money-laundering trial. After the column appeared, al-Mardi filed a defamation complaint, and Al Sudani was shut down indefinitely.

During Saturday’s demonstration, Urwah was released from detention, one day earlier than anticipated. The government had previously stated it would hold both men for three days. It was not immediately clear why Urwah was released while Mirghani remained in detention.

After he was warmly greeted by the crowd, Urwah held a press conference in which he bitterly criticized al-Mardi for filing a defamation complaint against the newspaper.

"We will continue the struggle ... for the freedom of the press," Urwah said.

The protesters demanded the formation of an independent committee to handle the Al Sudani case and formed a group among themselves to meet the National Press Council to urge it to protect freedom of the press.


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