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Africa

Journalist guilty of trousers 'indecency', spared lashes

Video by Catherine NICHOLSON

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-09-07

Sudanese journalist Lubna al-Hussein, arrested for wearing trousers in July, was fined 200 dollars but spared a maximum sentence of forty lashes at a high-profile trial in Khartoum on Monday. Al-Hussein says she would prefer prison to paying up.

AFP - A Sudanese woman journalist was on Monday spared a whipping for wearing trousers, but a court instead fined Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein 500 Sudanese pounds (200 dollars), eyewitnesses said.

 

"I won't pay. I'd rather go to prison," Hussein told AFP by telephone, though her lawyers said they would try to persuade her to pay up.

 

The eyewitnesses, speaking as they emerged from the hearing which was barred to the press, said the court had ruled that Hussein be jailed for a month if she failed to pay the fine.

 

Under Sudanese law, she could have been sentenced to a maximum of 40 lashes for "indecency" after being arrested with 12 other women wearing trousers in a Khartoum restaurant in July.

 

Around 100 supporters chanted slogans and waved placards saying "No to whipping!" in support of Hussein as she entered the hearing in the late morning, her hair covered in a traditional Sudanese scarf.

 

At least one woman was beaten by police and around 40 were arrested before police dispersed the protest amid strict security around the courtroom, an AFP correspondent at the scene reported.

 

"They arrested 48 of us. Some of us were hurt and one is bleeding," a demonstrator told AFP.

 

Ten of the women arrested in July, including Christians, were subsequently summoned by the police and each given 10 lashes.

 

Hussein could have suffered similar punishment, but instead she challenged the charge and began a publicity campaign to try to get the law changed.

 

Article 152 of Sudan's 1991 penal code -- which came into force two years after the coup that brought President Omar al-Beshir to power -- stipulates a maximum of 40 lashes for people convicted of wearing "indecent clothing."

 

On Friday, London-based rights group Amnesty International urged the Khartoum government to withdraw the charges against Hussein, saying the law used to justify flogging women for wearing clothes deemed "indecent" should be repealed.

 

Hussein could have sought legal immunity because of her role as a United Nations press officer in Khartoum.

 

But she also works for the left-wing Al-Sahafa newspaper, and said earlier she wanted a trial in order to challenge the law, and that she wished to waive her UN immunity.

 

"I'm ready for anything to happen. I'm absolutely not afraid of the verdict," she told AFP in an interview on August 3.

 

"If I'm sentenced to be whipped, or to anything else, I will appeal. I will see it through to the end, to the constitutional court if necessary.

 

"And if the constitutional court says the law is constitutional, I'm ready to be whipped not 40 but 40,000 times."

 

Hussein's case has triggered widespread outrage at home and abroad.

 

At the last hearing on August 4, riot police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of people including activists from opposition parties demonstrating outside the courtroom.

 

On August 11 Hussein said the authorities had banned her from travelling to Lebanon to take part in a talk show.

 

She told AFP she had been due to leave to record a television programme but that police at Khartoum airport prevented her from boarding a plane.

 

"They told me that due to a decision from August 7, I was banned from travelling abroad," Hussein said. "I asked them to show me a written document containing the decision but they were unable to do so."

 

 

 

Date created : 2009-09-07

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