September 6, 2006, in Khartoum, Sudan

Masked gunmen bundled Taha, editor-in-chief of the private daily Al-Wifaq, into a car outside his home in east Khartoum late on September 5.

Police found his severed head next to his body in an area south of the capital the following day. His hands and feet were bound, according to a CPJ source and news reports. Taha had angered Islamists by running an article about the Prophet Muhammad. He had also written critically about the political opposition and armed groups in Sudan's western Darfur region, according to press reports. No group claimed responsibility for the killing, Reuters reported.

Taha, 50, was an Islamist and former member of the National Islamic Front. But in May 2005, he was detained for several days, fined 8 million Sudanese pounds (US$3,200), and his paper was closed for three months after he offended the country's powerful Islamists by republishing an article from the Internet that questioned the ancestry of the Prophet Muhammad. Demonstrators outside the courthouse demanded he be sentenced to death for blasphemy. Sudan is religiously conservative and penalizes blasphemy and insulting Islam with the death penalty.

Six months before the slaying, unidentified assailants set fire to the offices of Al-Wifaq, badly damaging the building. The perpetrators were never identified, a CPJ source said.

Several Sudanese journalists gathered at the Khartoum morgue to protest the murder and demand government protection for the press. The Arabic-language satellite news channel Al-Jazeera said Taha had fought many battles with the government and opposition parties over his writings and had made many political enemies.

In April 2009, the Sudanese government executed nine men found guilty of involvement in the assassination. Many press freedom and human rights observers saw the prosecution as a miscarriage of justice, spurred by a thirst on the part of President Omar al-Bashir's regime for settling scores with the rebellious region of Darfur.

All nine men were from this oppressed and poverty-stricken region of Sudan, which al-Bashir's power base held responsible for the International Criminal Court's March 2009 indictment accusing the leader of crimes against humanity.

Beats Covered:Culture, Human Rights, Politics
Local or Foreign:Local
Type of Death:Murder
Suspected Source of Fire:Political Group
Taken Captive:Yes


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.