September 14, 2011

H.E. President Omar Al Bashir
Office of the President
People’s Palace
P.O. Box 281
Fax: +249 183 782 541 / +249 183 774339

Minister of Justice
Mr. Mohammed Bushara Dousa
Ministry of Justice
P.O. Box 302
Al Nil Avenue
Khartoum, Sudan
Fax: +249 183 764 168

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to welcome the release of Al-Sahafa journalist Jaafar Alsabki Ibrahim and Rai al-Shaab Deputy Editor Abu Zar al-Amin on August 22 and 28, 2011, respectively; however, we are deeply concerned that Abu Zar al-Amin still faces the death penalty if convicted of new charges.

According to our information, Abu Zar al-Amin, deputy editor of the opposition daily newspaper Rai Al-Shaab, was scheduled to be released on July 3, 2011, after his sentenced was reduced from five years to one on appeal, but this was delayed until August 22 after being accused of attacking a security official who allegedly tortured him during his pre-trial detention in May 2010. These claims have yet to be investigated by the authorities. Al-Amin faces further anti-state charges relating to articles written for Rai al-Shaab prior to his imprisonment. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Al-Amin was first arrested by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on May 16, 2010, and on July 15, 2010, he was convicted of “undermining the constitutional system” and “publishing false information. His health has reportedly deteriorated considerably since he was first incarcerated as a result of ill-treatment and the failure of the authorities to provide adequate medical attention in prison.

Jaafar Alsabki Ibrahim, a Darfuri journalist with the opposition newspaper Al-Sahafa, was released on August 28, 2011, after almost 10 months in detention. His release followed an announcement by President Omar Al-Bashir on August 27, 2011, that he intended to free all journalists imprisoned in Sudan after local journalists requested pardons for their colleagues to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Arrested on November 3, 2010, Ibrahim was held incommunicado until June 2011 when he was finally charged with “undermining the constitutional system.” The charges against Ibrahim are presumed to have been dropped.

PEN American Center welcomes the release of Abu Zar al-Amin and Jaafar Alsabki Ibrahim. However, we remain deeply concerned that Abu Zar al-Amin still faces the death penalty if convicted of the new charges, and that a number of journalists remain imprisoned in Sudan solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a state party. We therefore urge to the authorities drop all remaining charges against al-Amin, and we call on President Bashir to fulfill his recent promise to release all journalists detained in Sudan and to refrain from reinstating pre-publication censorship.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Mohamed Atta Al-Moula Abbas
Director of the NISS
NISS Headquarters

Ambassador Dr. Akec Khoc
Embassy of the Republic of Sudan
2210 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 667-2406

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