March 18, 2011

H.E. President Omar Al Bashir

Office of the President
People’s Palace
PO Box 281
Fax: +249 183 774339
Mohamed Atta Al-Moula Abbas
Director of the NISS
NISS Headquarters

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 from prison of Rai al-Shaab journalists Ashraf Abdel Aziz and Altahir Ibrahim; however, we are deeply concerned that deputy editor Abu Zar Al-Amin remains imprisoned.

According to our information, deputy editor Al-Amin and reporters Aziz and Ibrahim, all journalists for the opposition daily newspaper Rai al-Shaab, were arrested during a raid by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on the newspaper’s offices in Khartoum on May 16, 2010. Al-Amin and Ibrahim were reportedly tortured by NISS agents while in detention. On July 15, 2010, all three were convicted of “undermining the constitutional system” and “publishing false information.” Deputy Editor Al-Amin was sentenced to five years in prison, while journalists Abdel Aziz and Ibrahim both received two-year sentences. It is assumed that Al-Amin’s appeal was unsuccessful, and reports suggest that he is not receiving adequate medical attention, despite suffering from poor health as a result of being tortured.

Both Abdelaziz and Ibrahim were released on February 6, 2011, after completing a one-year prison sentence; their sentences had been reduced on appeal from two years to one in November 2010. Rai al-Shaab, was suspended for one year at the same hearing. Upon the journalists’ release, they stated that they had been tortured during their initial detention and that they had not even been informed of the reason for their arrest. They also stated that conditions at Kober prison were very poor, with overcrowding a particular problem.

In a separate case, journalists Khaled Tawfiq, Kamal Karrar, Ibrahim Mirghani, and Mohamed Rahma from Al-Midan newspaper, all arrested on February 3, 2011, were reportedly released on February 12, 2011. However, nine other journalists remain in detention in Sudan and their whereabouts remain unknown. Samir Salah Eldin, Suleiman Wida’a, Mohamed El-Dirdiri, Abdelazeem Albadawi, Fatima Bashir, and Fathia Tinga of Al-Midan, have all been detained since February 3, 2011, while Hamza Baloul and Ali Ahmad Haj Al-Amin of Al-Ahdath have been held since January 10; all were arrested after reporting on protests in Sudan. Jaafar Alsabki Ibrahim of Al-Sahafa has been detained since November 3, 2010.

PEN American Center welcomes the release of Rai al-Shaab journalists Ashraf Abdel Aziz and Altahir Ibrahim, as well as Al-Midan journalists Khaled Tawfiq, Kamal Karrar, Ibrahim Mirghani, and Mohamed Rahma. However, we remain deeply concerned that a number of journalists in Sudan, especially Abu Zar Al-Amin, have been imprisoned and tortured solely for their 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 you to continue to release all writers and journalists, including Abu Zar Al-Amin, immediately and unconditionally.

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
Fax: +249 187 560 980

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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