Sudan woman jailed for refusing to pay pants fine

8th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

The lawyer of Sudanese woman journalist Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein says she has been taken to prison because she refused to pay the fine.

Khartoum – Sudanese woman journalist Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein was sent to jail on Monday after refusing to pay a USD 200 (EUR 139, CHF 210) fine imposed for wearing trousers deemed "indecent," one of her lawyers said.

"She has been taken to the women's prison in Omdurman," the twin city of Khartoum, Kamal Omar told AFP.

Earlier on Monday, a Khartoum court spared Hussein, who has vowed to appeal against any conviction, a whipping for wearing "indecent" trousers but instead fined her the 500 Sudanese pounds (EUR 139, CHF 210).

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

Speaking as they emerged from the court hearing which was barred to the press, witnesses 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" under Islamic principles after being arrested with 12 other women wearing trousers in a Khartoum restaurant in July.

Women in trousers are not a rare sight in Sudan but the authorities can take offence at trousers which reveal too much of a woman's shape, leading to accusations from rights groups that judgement is arbitrary.

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

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

More than 100 supporters, mostly women in trousers, chanted slogans and waved placards saying "No to whipping!" in support of Hussein as she entered the hearing, her hair covered in a traditional Sudanese scarf.

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

Islamist counter-demonstrators cried "Allahu Akbar" (God is greater) and hurled insults at Hussein sympathisers.

"They arrested 48 of us. Some of us were hurt and one is bleeding," a demonstrator told AFP after the incident, which the media were barred from filming.

Yasser Arman, a senior official of the south's Sudan People's Liberation Movement, a former rebel group, told AFP that all 48 were released later.

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 3 August. "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.

AFP / Expatica

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