Guilty But Not Free

Port Vila, Vanuatu (PressExposure) September 17, 2009 -- Fined for wearing trousers, a 34 year old widow, Lubna Hussein was found guilty of indecency, in a case that has demanded worldwide attention. Hussein was saved from receiving the maximum penalty of 40 lashes, but was carried off to jail when she refused to pay the fine. Hussein was fined 500 Sudanese pounds ($200).

Representatives from the British, French, Canadian, Swedish and Dutch Embassies turned up at the Khartoum courthouse to support Hussein.

"Hussein was found guilty, but we know she is not guilty", said a government official, Yasser Arman. "This is a clear violation of the constitution, of women's rights, and the peace agreement." Arman is also a senior member of the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

Nabil Adib Abdalla, the defense lawyer said the law on indecent dress was so wide it contravened Hussein's right to a fair trial. Hussein has pledged to appeal the sentence. A committee formed for Hussein’s defense may pay the fine and free her.

"The laws are not clear and give individual police officers the opportunity for undue latitude to determine what is suitable clothing for women" say many of the activists. Hussein's case is seen as a test of Sudan's Islamic decency regulations. Hussein, posing in loose trousers for photos, has publicized her case and calls for media support.

Indecency cases are common in Sudan, where there is a huge cultural gap between the mostly Muslim and Arab-operated north and the mainly Christian south. The case caused approximately 100 women to meet in the vicinity of the court, ahead of the verdict, in order to support Hussein. Some of the women were dressed in trousers.

Political and human rights groups strongly contested the trial, claiming the law violated Sudan's 2005 constitution. Before the court session even began scuffles broke out between the women and Islamists, who shouted religious slogans and denounced Hussein and her supporters as prostitutes. They demanded a harsh sentence for Hussein.

Before the riot police dispersed the crowds, approximately 40 women protesters were detained and at least one woman was beaten. Ms Hussein described her arrest as "A showcase of repressive laws in a country with a long history of civil conflicts".

Amnesty International has placed pressure on the Sudanese Government to drop the charges and repeal the law, which they claim ‘justifies abhorrent penalties’.

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Press Release Submitted On: September 17, 2009 at 11:15 pm
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