International PEN welcomes the release of Al-Ghali Yahya Shegifat, journalist and president of the Association of Darfur Journalists. Shegifat was released on July 22, 2008 after more than two months in detention, during which time he was subjected to severe ill-treatment, and is now in exile in the USA.

Background Information

According to PEN's information, l-Ghali Yahya Shegifat, a 32-year-old freelance journalist contributing for the privately-owned daily Ray Al-Shaab and president of the Association of Darfur Journalists, was arrested in Khartoum on May 14, 2008 as part of a government crackdown in which over 200 individuals were detained. He had previously been briefly detained and reportedly ill-treated by national security agents on May 12. Following his second arrest, he was held incommunicado for two weeks. A lawyer reportedly managed to visit him at the end of May.

Shegifat was finally released two months later on July 22 following international pressure including from the USA, where a relative of Shegifat’s is a resident. During his detention, Shegifat was reportedly beaten, shackled in stress positions in overcrowded cells, deprived of medical attention, food and sleep, and burned with cigarettes during interrogations.

PEN did not report on Shegifat’s release previously as he was receiving death threats and feared for his safety in Sudan. In October he travelled to the USA, where he is now receiving medical treatment and has claimed asylum.

Thank you to all who sent appeals on his behalf.

The individuals arrested at the same time as Shegifat were reportedly accused of supporting the armed opposition group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which has been fighting Sudanese government forces in Darfur since 2003 and launched an attack on Khartoum for the first time on May 10. The arrests were understood to have been arbitrary, made on the basis of people being or appearing to be from the Darfur region or on suspicion of having sheltered JEM members. Shegifat and the other detainees were feared to be at risk of torture and extra judicial killing. One of the detainees reportedly died in detention on May 19 as a result of internal bleeding caused by severe injuries.

More information:

Report from Amnesty International