Court imposes prison sentences on three Rai Al Shaab journalists
|Publisher||Reporters Without Borders|
|Publication Date||16 July 2010|
|Cite as||Reporters Without Borders, Court imposes prison sentences on three Rai Al Shaab journalists, 16 July 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c4562bc1a.html [accessed 21 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
A Khartoum criminal court yesterday sentenced three senior members of the opposition daily Rai Al Shaab (People's Opinion) to jail terms ranging two to five years on charges of "publishing incorrect information" and "attacking the state with a view to undermining the constitutional system."
Deputy editor Abuzur Al Amin was given a five-year sentence while editor Ashraf Abdelaziz, and political editor Altahir Ibrahim received two-year sentences. The fourth journalist on trial, Ramadan Mahgoub, was acquitted. All four had been held since May. See the previous release.
The court also ordered the newspaper's closure and the seizure of all the assets of the company that owns it.
"These three journalists have been convicted just for doing their job," Reporters Without Borders said. "These verdicts are unjust and are clearly aimed at silencing the opposition press in Sudan. We firmly condemn this kind of intimidation."
Their lawyers said they would appeal. Most of the country's newspapers decided not to bring out an issue today in protest.
18.06.2010 - Defence lawyers withdraw from trial of four journalists facing death penalty
Reporters Without Borders is deeply disturbed by the conduct of the trial of four senior members of the opposition daily Rai Al Shaab - editor Ashraf Abdelaziz, deputy editor Abuzur Al Amin, political editor Altahir Ibrahim and news editor Ramadan Mahgoub - on charges of terrorism and spying.
The head of the defence lawyers, Kamal Elgizuli, announced on 16 June, five days after the trial started before a criminal court in north Khartoum, that they were pulling out because the court was refusing to hear testimony from three of the four defence witnesses on the grounds that they were members of the opposition and their testimony consisted only of hearsay.
"We condemn the court's refusal, which violates the rights of the defence, and we demand that this trial conform to international standards guaranteeing the right to due process," Reporters Without Borders said. "In a case in which journalists risk being sentenced to hang, the court cannot deprive the defence of essential witnesses."
The press freedom organisation added: "We are of the view that the journalists' lawyers are acting with integrity. They are withdrawing out of respect for the defendants, because they want to publicly denounce the court's violations of judicial procedure."
The lawyers gave a press conference on 16 June at which they explained that they were being prevented from performing their role and their duties adequately.
The court has given the journalists three days, until 20 June, to choose new lawyers, failing which the judges themselves will appoint new defence lawyers. The trial is scheduled to resume on 21 June.
If found guilty, the journalists could be sentenced to death by hanging under Sudan's anti-terrorism law. "We are extremely shocked by the sentence the four journalists are facing just for doing their job of providing news and information," Reporters Without Borders said.
The journalists were charged with spying and terrorism after being arrested last month for publishing information that was deemed to be false. [See the previous release : http://en.rsf.org/soudan-authoritie...].