Women beaten during protest outside court

SUDANESE police fired tear gas and beat women protesting outside a court yesterday during the trial of a female journalist accused of violating the Islamic dress code by wearing trousers in public.

Police dispersed about 50 protesters, mostly women, who were supporting Lubna Hussein, a former UN worker facing 40 lashes on the charge of “indecent dressing”. Some of the women demonstrators wore trousers in solidarity with Hussein.

Trousers are considered indecent under the strict interpretation of Islamic law, adopted by Sudan’s Islamic regime which came to power after a coup led by President Omar al-Bashir in 1989. But activists and lawyers say the implementation of the law is arbitrary.

“We are here to protest against this law that oppresses women and debases them,” said one of the protesters, Amal Habani.

Witnesses said police wielding batons beat up one of Hussein’s lawyers, Manal Awad Khogali.

Hussein was among 13 women arrested on July 3 in a raid by the public order police on a popular cafe in Khartoum. Ten of the women were flogged at a police station two days later and fined 250 Sudanese pounds, or about €83. But Hussein and two others decided to go on trial. She has sought to publicise her case internationally, inviting human rights workers, Western diplomats and fellow journalists to witness her trial.

While the police broke up the demonstration outside the Khartoum Criminal Court, the judge adjourned Hussein’s trial for a month to seek clarification from Sudan’s foreign ministry.

Defence lawyer Jalal al-Sayed told reporters yesterday the judge wanted to know whether Hussein still has immunity because her superiors have not yet accepted the resignation.

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