28 June 2011

Sudan: Two Weeks Ahead of Release, Jailed Editor Suddenly Facing Possible Death Penalty Or Life Imprisonment

Reporters Without Borders is extremely disturbed by the Sudanese justice system's decision to keep Abuzar Ali Al-Amin, the deputy editor of the opposition daily Rai Al-Shaab, in prison and to bring new charges against him based on complaints made by the security services.

Arrested in May 2010, Al-Amin was given a five-year jail sentence in July 2010 which the supreme court reduced to one year on May 2011. As a result, he had been due to be released on 3 July. Now he is again facing the possibility of life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

"These new charges just two weeks before Al-Amin's release constitute psychological torture," Reporters Without Borders said. "And they have been brought against him in a manner that is as illegal as the previous proceedings. The way the security forces are hounding this journalist is disgraceful. It is time he was released. We urge the authorities to drop these very grave charges and free him at once."

Sources told Reporters Without Borders that judge Mudathir Al-Rashid notified Al-Amin on 19 June that he was to be the subject of a new investigation at the request of the security forces prosecutor and that he would be transferred to the custody of the prosecutor-general for crimes against the state when he completed his current sentence.

The decision is the result of at least two complaints filed by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). One was reportedly filed by a security official who claims that Al-Amin deliberately injured him when Al-Amin was arrested in May 2010. A second complaint is believed to be based on articles he wrote for Rai Al-Shaab, which was affiliated to the opposition Popular Congress Party and which was closed on 16 May 2010.

Al-Amin is reportedly facing charges of criminal conspiracy (article 21 and 24 of the criminal code), criminal offences (article 26), attacks on the state aimed at undermining the constitutional system (article 50) and publishing false information (article 66). The article 50 charge carries a possible death sentence.

He is also reportedly facing charges under article 24 of the press law (on the responsibilities of editors) and article 26 (on the duties of journalists).

Abuzar Ali Al-Amin was tortured in 2010.

It is ironic that Al-Amin, who was reportedly tortured during detention, is now accused of injuring a security agent. The torture allegations were denied by the security forces and were never investigated.

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