Outrage over conviction of Sudan artists
The conviction of five members of the Feed Arts group to two months imprisonment for ‘public disturbance’ has sparked outrage in Sudan and abroad.
Five other artists of the Feed Arts group, who have also been charged with public disturbance and disruption of public safety and are expected to have to appear in court on Sunday, have been released on bail.
Members of civil society organisations and Resistance Committees active in the neighbourhoods of Khartoum organised vigils in front of the Public Prosecution Office, the Ministry of Justice, and the Omdurman Women Prison during the weekend, demanding the immediate release of the detainees.
The Resistance Committees gave the authorities 72 hours to release the Feed Art Group members or they will escalate their protests. During a vigil held in front of the Ministry of Justice yesterday, an activist stated that the Sudanese state agencies are hostile to the arts, and target artists. He therefore read the Charter for the Protection of Art and the Arts, calling for the freedom of art and the freedom of expression without intimidation or moral, intellectual, and social restrictions.
The Women's Union organised a vigil in front of the office of the Public Prosecution in Khartoum on Saturday calling for the release of the detainees. They were addressed by the public prosecutor.
Members of Resistance Committees staged a protest in front of the Omdurman Women Prison, where they were addressed by Walaa El Boushi, Minister of Youth and Sports. She promised to assign a legal advisor to follow up the case. She also visited both Dua Tareg in the Omdurman Women Prison and the four other Feed Arts members, held in Soba Prison in Khartoum. One of the four male detainees is the well-known Sudanese film director Hajooj Kuka.
Activists launched an open petition calling for the immediate release of the members of the Feed Arts group. Several film makers and producers worldwide also showed solidarity with the imprisoned artists.
Minister of Justice
Minister of Justice Nasreldin Abdelbari met with representatives of Feed Arts and the Sudan Colour youth group, who organised a joint protest in front of the ministry, in his office yesterday.
During the meeting, he stressed the need to activate the work of his Legal Reform Commission, that will act as a watchdog over law enforcement, human rights, and justice.
The Minister called on the artists to submit complaints and suggestions. “Activists and the authorities will work hand in hand to build a State of Law.”
The Sudan Professionals Association (SPA) condemned the imprisonment of the Feed Arts members in a press statement, calling the convictions “a deliberate disturbance of the revolutionary spirit that organised the whole country”. The Association urged “artists, writers, musicians and visual artists to stand up and protest against these practices in their peaceful aesthetic ways”.
The No to Oppression of Women Initiative said in a memorandum delivered to the Attorney General that the charges brought against the members of Feed Arts “do not justify the harsh and unfair sentences by judge Omar Abdelhameed at the Central Khartoum Criminal Court”.
The memorandum expressed concern that charges against the members of the Feed Arts group were changed, and that new charges were added after the group members were detained. “Is repeating the ‘Freedom, Peace, and Justice’ revolution slogans in detention a disturbance of the public order?” The memo further stressed that some of the accused were witnesses of the June 3 massacre last year, and the authorities may want to silence them.
The No to Oppression of Women Initiative appealed to the Sudanese judiciary to amend vague and unclear laws. The women activists are cooperating with lawyers to submit an appeal to reverse the convictions, and “to release all young men and women who have been accused of harassing a police officer”.
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