The Court of Public Order in Khartoum on Thursday dismissed all charges against Winnie Omar, who stood accused of ‘wearing indecent clothing’ under article 152 of the Sudanese Penal Code.
Judge Kamaleldin El Zaki ruled that there was suspicion that the defendant was being monitored, He also said that the clothing she was wearing was familiar to the Sudanese.
Winnie Omar said in an interview with Radio Dabanga that she was pleased with the decision of the court, but at the same time, she called for changing and reforming the criminal code to become more fair and respectful of Sudanese choices.
She was surprised that there is a provision in the Criminal Code whereby the appearance of women was controlled, which she considered as a flagrant violation of personal freedoms and blatant interference in women's choices of appearance and clothing.
Omar was arrested on December 10, hours after attending the hearing of 24 women who had been charged with indecency for wearing trousers at a party. A police officer arrested her near El Osdra club while she was waiting for transportation to return home. The public order police detained Omar for hours before she was released on bail.
While in detention Omar said the contents of her phone and laptop, which she carried with her, were searched. In a video posted on the social media she explained that the police officer who arrested her said he did not like the way she walked.
In her statements before the court in El Deim, Omar denied the charges of indecent clothing. “I am a Muslim and know my religion well […] What I wear is not an indecent dress, but a dress worn by all the girls on the public street.” She added that her head was half covered at the moment of arrest.
The United States Embassy in Khartoum released a statement on its Facebook page, stating that the embassy is concerned by the arrest of the journalist on the charge of indecent dress. The embassy recalled Khartoum's commitment to protect basic freedoms, after the lift of economic sanctions on Sudan, and applauded the earlier decision of the court to drop the charges against the 24 women.
Many women have been tried under Article 152. It is applied to “Whoever does in a public place an indecent act or an act contrary to public morals, or wears an obscene outfit, or contrary to public morals, or causing an annoyance to public feelings shall be punished with flogging, which may not exceed forty lashes or with fine or with both.” The crime is punishable by up to 40 lashes and a fine.