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Khartoum court hands suspended sentence and fine to Women’s rights activist

April 1 - 2021 KHARTOUM
Women's rights defender and social media activist Waad Bahjat (ACJPS)
Women's rights defender and social media activist Waad Bahjat (ACJPS)

The Sudanese blogger and women’s rights activist Waad Bahjat has been sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of SDG 10,000 by the Khartoum criminal court yesterday. The judge suspended the prison sentence and placed Bahjat under probation.

Bahjat was initially charged with defamation, insulting a public servant exercising judicial proceedings, publishing false news, and public nuisance according to the 1991 Criminal Act. She was also accused of attacking a police officer and a SAF officer.

At a previous sitting, the Criminal Court dismissed the charges of defamation, insulting a public servant exercising judicial proceedings, and publishing false news. However, the charges regarding the use of criminal force and public nuisance remained.

Bahjat was released shortly after this morning’s hearing after payment of the fine and release formalities had been finalised.

As previously reported by Radio Dabanga Bahjat who is a social media activist and human rights and women’s rights defender, faces one year of imprisonment over a Facebook video she broadcast to report on an incident in which several women were allegedly harassed by SAF and police officers at a petrol station.

On November 8, when she went out to refuel her car in Khartoum, she noticed soldiers abusing and harassing women in the queue that was designated for women. She also noticed that the women’s queue was not moving forward whilst the men’s queue was moving.

When she asked about the situation, she was told that the fuel station would serve women. Bahjat asked to speak with the manager of the station but officers told her that they were in charge. She then demanded that women should be allowed to refuel their cars, but her plea was rejected and she was insulted by the officers.

After the incident, she shared a Facebook Live video in which she talked about the incident and highlighted the discrimination and unequal treatment of the women at the petrol station.

Following the broadcast, she was arrested and detained at the El Imtidad police station where she was subjected to threats and ill-treatment and sustained cuts and bruises on her arms and shoulders.

Her trial has been postponed several times due to various legal technicalities.

Bahjat pleaded not guilty and refuted the accusation. She also asserted that the police officers used force against her.

According to a reliable source, Bahjat was forcibly taken by a police officer and a SAF officer and, at the police station, her phone was taken from her and she was threatened during the interrogation.

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