New York — Sudanese authorities should drop all charges against Al-Taghyeer columnist Amal Habbani, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
A court in the capital Khartoum today sentenced Habbani, a columnist for the news website, to pay a fine of 10,000 Sudanese pounds (roughly U.S. $1430) or to serve four months in prison on the charge of "obstructing a police officer from doing his job," according to news reports. Habbani told Agence France Press that the sentence was "unfair," and that she would appeal. She said she would not pay the fine, even if that meant going to prison.
The charges stem from a November 10, 2016, incident when National Security Forces detained Habbani, independent journalist Reem Abbas, and activist Mohamed Orwa for two hours as they attempted to cover the trial of a human rights organization accused of "publishing false reports" and espionage, according to news reports. A NSF officer confiscated Habbani's phone, which he said she was using to take photos during the court session, and slapped her when she protested her detention, according to news reports. Habbani, Abbas, and Orwa denied taking pictures in the courtroom, the reports said.
"Sudanese authorities have a history of harassing Amal Habbani because of her work as journalist," said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. "We call on prosecutors to stop pursuing her and to let her work freely."
Sudanese authorities have sought to intimidate or silence Habbani for years. In September 2013, police arrested her at a funeral and detained her for days, without contact with the outside world, after the website reported critically on the police's response to protests in Khartoum. In May of that year, authorities prevented her from traveling, without explanation, according to Al-Taghyeer. In 2012, Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service instructed the management of her former employer, the daily newspaper Al-Jarida, to ban her from writing, CPJ reported at the time.