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Trial of activist in 'indecent clothing' case adjourned

December 19 - 2017 KHARTOUM
Winnie Omar, a Sudanese women's rights activist and journalist (file photo)
Winnie Omar, a Sudanese women's rights activist and journalist (file photo)

The defence of activist Winnie Omar, who has been accused of wearing indecent clothing, requested the ruling to be postponed until Thursday. On social media Omar has defended herself against the charges under the Public Order Act.

After hearing the parties yesterday, the judge decided to delay the ruling until next Thursday upon the request of the defence team. They want to hear three witnesses, including two people who witnessed Omar's arrest and Nahid Jabrallah, the director of Seema, a centre for the training and protection of women and children's rights.

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 on Sunday. 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.

“Sudan should consider reviewing, amending or abolishing entirely Article 152 to ensure that the law is consistent with Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” the statement read.

Inappropriate dress’

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.

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