Rai Al-Shaab Editor and Al-Sahafa Journalist Now Face Death Penalty
[Update on Rapid Action 3/18/11 and Rapid Action: 2/4/11]
PEN International protests the anti-state charges brought against Rai al-Shaab editor Abu Zar Al-Amin and Al-Sahafa journalist Jaafar Alsabki Ibrahim in June 2011, for which they now face possible execution. Al-Amin was due for release on July 3 after his five-year sentence was reduced to one year, but now faces further prosecution after the security services brought two new complaints against him, including one by an officer whom Al-Amin claims to have tortured him. Ibrahim, who had been detained incommunicado without charge since November 2010, was finally brought before a court in June and charged with “undermining the constitutional system.” Both men face long prison sentences or the death penalty if convicted. PEN considers them to be held in violation of their right to freedom of expression and calls on the Sudanese authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally.
Abu Zar al-Amin, deputy editor working for the opposition daily newspaper Rai al-Shaab, was arrested along with reporters Ashraf Abdelaziz and Dahab Ibrahim during a raid by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on the newspaper’s offices in Khartoum on May 16, 2010. The raid was apparently triggered by a sensitive article published two days prior. Al-Amin and Dahab Ibrahim were reportedly tortured by NISS agents. On July 15, 2010, all three Rai al-Shaab journalists were convicted of “undermining the constitutional system” and “publishing false information.” Al-Amin was sentenced to five years in prison while Abdelaziz and Ibrahim received two-year sentences. Abdelaziz and Ibrahim were released on February 6, 2011, after their sentence was reduced to one year on appeal in November 2010.
Al-Amin’s appeal was not heard until May 2011, when his sentence was also reduced to one year, meaning he should have been released on July 3, 2011. However, in late June prison officials informed him that he would instead be transferred to the custody of State Security Prosecution for further investigation. Two new complaints have reportedly been brought against him by the NISS.
The first complaint relates to articles written for Rai al-Shaab before Al-Amin’s imprisonment, for which he faces the same charges on which he has already been convicted: criminal conspiracy (Article 21 and 24 of the criminal code), criminal offenses (Article 26), attacks on the state aimed at undermining the constitutional system (Article 50), and publishing false information (Article 66). He is reportedly also facing charges under Article 24 of the press law (on the responsibilities of editors) and Article 26 (on the duties of journalists). The charge under Article 50 of the criminal code carries a possible death sentence.
The second complaint was lodged by a security officer whom Al-Amin says tortured him during his pre-trial detention in May 2010. The officer now claims that Al-Amin inflicted "grievous bodily harm" upon him. According to the journalist’s family, Al-Amin was simply defending himself. The allegations of torture against Al-Amin were denied by the security forces and were never investigated. Reports in March 2011 suggested that Al-Amin was suffering from poor health as a result of torture and that he was not receiving adequate medical attention in prison.
Meanwhile, Jaafar Alsabki Ibrahim, Darfuri journalist with the opposition newspaper Al-Sahafa, also faces a long prison sentence or possible execution after he was accused in June 2011 of "undermining the constitutional system." He had been detained incommunicado without charge since his arrest by the NISS on November 3, 2010. A large number of other Darfuri media workers and activists were detained around the same time and were feared to be at risk of torture. Ibrahim’s trial has been adjourned until July 12, 2011.
The raid on Rai al-Shaab prior to Abu Zar Al-Amin’s arrest on May 16, 2010, was apparently triggered by an article two days earlier alleging that Iran had built a weapons factory in Sudan to supply insurgents in Africa and the Middle East. The ruling Sudanese National Congress Party dismissed the report as false and a scheme by the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP)—which publishes Rai al-Shaab—to damage relations between Sudan and the United States. The day before the raid on Rai al-Shaab, the authorities had arrested the PCP leader Hassan al-Turabi, who is a vocal critic of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, accusing al-Turabi of “stirring up hatred, disseminating malicious lies and abuse of Sudan’s foreign relations”; he was released without charge on July 1, 2010. There were further raids on several other newspapers on May 19, 2010, including on another opposition newspaper, Ajras Alhurria, which was ordered to remove an article on the journalists’ arrests, among others. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, was re-elected in national elections in April 2010. According to rights’ groups, the election process was seriously flawed and marred by widespread repression and human rights violations.
Write A Letter
- Protesting the continued detention of Rai al-Shaab editor Abu Zar Al-Amin and Al-Sahafa journalist Jaafar Alsabki Ibrahim and the anti-state charges brought against them in June 2011, which means that they now both face possible execution;
- Pointing out that that the charges appear to be a clear violation of their right to freedom of expression, protected under international human rights treaties to which Sudan is a party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights;
- Expressing serious concern that Al-Amin is being detained beyond the July 3 expiration of his sentence and has reportedly been subjected to torture while in detention, and that Ibrahim was detained incommunicado without charge for seven months;
- Calling on the Sudanese authorities to release Al-Amin and Ibrahim immediately and unconditionally and to investigate the allegations of torture against Al-Amin.
Send Your Letter To
HE President Omar Al Bashir
Office of the President
PO Box 281
Fax: +249 183 782 541/ +249 183 774339
Minister of Justice
Mr. Mohammed Bushara Dousa
Ministry of Justice, PO Box 302
Al Nil Avenue
Fax: +249 183 764 168
Salutation: Your Excellency
WITH COPIES TO...
Mohamed Atta Al-Moula Abbas
Director of the NISS
Salutation: Dear Director Abbas
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Sudan in your country if possible.
Please send appeals immediately. Contact PEN if sending appeals after September 7, 2011: ftw [at] pen.org