June 8, 2010

H.E. President Omar Al Bashir
Office of the President
People’s Palace
PO Box 281
Khartoum, Sudan
Fax: +249 183 774339
Director of the NISS
Mohamed Atta Al-Moula Abbas
NISS Headquarters
Khartoum, Sudan
Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the detention of journalists Abu Zara al-Amin, Ashraf Abdel Aziz, and Dahab Ibrahim.

According to our information, Abu Zara al-Amin, deputy editor of the opposition daily newspaper Rai-al-Shaab, and Ashraf Abdel Aziz and Dahab Ibrahim, reporters for the same publication, were arrested during a raid by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on the newspaper’s offices in Khartoum on May 16, 2010. NISS agents confiscated equipment and copies of the latest issue of the paper and closed it down until further notice. Two other Rai al-Shaab employees, administrator Nagi Dahab and printer Abu Baker Al-Sammani, were reportedly also arrested.
All three journalists were detained incommunicado. As of May 25, al-Amin had reportedly been transferred to police custody and is reportedly being accused of anti-state crimes. According to press reports, he is in poor health after being subjected to electric shocks by national security agents. The whereabouts of the other journalists and employees is still not known.

It is believed that the raid was prompted by an article published by Rai al-Shaab on May 14 alleging that Iran had built a weapons factory in Sudan to supply insurgents in Africa and the Middle East, which the ruling National Congress Party dismissed as false. There were further raids on several other newspapers on May 19, including another opposition newspaper, Airas Alhurria, which was ordered to remove an article on the journalists’ arrests.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that Abu Zara al-Amin, Ashraf Abdel Aziz, and Dahab Ibrahim have been arrested in violation of their right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a state party. We therefore call for their immediate and unconditional release, and urge authorities to investigate all allegations of torture again the journalists.

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: Dr Priscilla Joseph
Chair of the Human Rights Committee
National Assembly
Omdurman, Sudan
Fax: +249 187 560 980

Akec Khoc Aciew Khoc
Charge d’Affaires
Embassy of the Republic of Sudan
2210 Massachusetts Ave
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 667-2406

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