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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 97 09:43:43 CST
From: rich%pencil@VM.MARIST.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: HUMAN RIGHTS-SUDAN: Prostitutes Sentenced To Death
Article: 23123

/** headlines: 112.0 **/
** Topic: HUMAN RIGHTS-SUDAN: Prostitutes Sentenced To Death **
** Written 7:29 AM Dec 1, 1997 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 3:15 PM Nov 28, 1997 by newsdesk@igc.org in africa.news */
/* ---------- IPS: HUMAN RIGHTS-SUDAN: Prostitute ---------- */

Prostitutes sentenced to death

By Nhial Bol, IPS, 25 November 1997

KHARTOUM, Nov 25 (IPS)—Four women have been sentenced to death by an Islamic Sharia court here for prostitution, and have been given only 15 days to appeal against the sentence.

The official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) reported Tuesday that the four would be executed on Dec 10, unless the Supreme Court reverses their sentence. Sudan’s Minister of Justice Abdel Basit Sabdrat, who is also the country’s Attorney General, has confirmed that the women’s case is before the Supreme Court.

SUNA reported that the four had been arrested several times and that they had ignored warnings to give up the iniquitous trade, abhored by Islam.

It is not clear whether the four women would be subjected to a public stonning in an open market place.

Minister Sabdrat said an undisclosed number of women accused of prostitution are also awaiting trial nationwide, but no further details were given.

The four women were found guilty under the 1983 Criminal Act which provides for the death sentence for a third-time offender. First-time offenders are given a round of 100 lashes and a prison sentence for a period of not less than five years. Second-time offenders are subjected to punishments not exceeding 200 lashes and 10 years in prison.

Sabdrat said the actual trials of the four were based on ’Hudud’ (Islamic codes). These trials were not announced in the official or private media as they used to be during the time of former President Gaafar Mohamed Nimeri.

In 1983, Nimeri imposed Sharia, which hardline Islamists dismissed as not a correct version of Islamic law. Sabdrat, who is a hardliner, said reporting court cases on radios, televisions or newspapers were not in line with the principles of the Sharia, as they infringe on the rights of the witnesses. But not all Islamists agree with the interpretation of Sharia used to sentence the four women.

An Islamic scholar Ibrahim M. Gassim told IPS on Tuesday that sentencing prostitutes to death under Sharia depends largely on the nature of the offence.

Gassim said it would, for example, be wrong if the sentences were handed down on poor women indulging in prostitution simply to earn a living, because Sharia does not object to illegal practices ... if they are meant as a way of survival.

He said prostitution becomes a crime -- under the Sharia -- only when those practicing it enjoy a good standard of living.

A similar view is held by former prime minister Sadiq al Mahdi, who was jailed by Nimeiri for opposing the application of the laws. Al Mahdi said the government should first establish a welfare state to ensure that everybody has enough before introducing the Sharia.

Mahdi, who was toppled by the current pro-Islamic junta led by Omar Hassan al Bashir in June 1989, said the wrong method involved in applying the laws has exacerbated the conflict between the Arab Muslim north and the minority Christians in the south. Mahdi fled the country in December 1996 and now has joined an alliance of exiled opposition groups seeking to topple the Islamist regime in Khartoum.

Under the Sharia, a judge is required to listen to the evidence of at least four witnesses who have seen and caught the accused in the act. But this procedure is rarely followed by Islamic judges in the Sudan.

To reduce such flaws, Gassim has urged judges to become more knowledgable about the Sharia codes before handing down sentences. Meanwhile, Minister Sabdrat also revealed to the National Assembly last week that some 891 people had been sentenced to death, to limb amputations and to life imprisonments since the Sharia was imposed in the Sudan in September 1983.

Despite the high number, he said only 189 people had been executed since 1983. The rest are either awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court or a clemency from the Head of State, Lt-Gen Omar Hassan al Bashir, he said.

The punishments handed down by the Sharia courts range from limb amputations for theft, floggings for drinking alcohol and stonning for adultery.

The minister said the Sharia courts would also put on trial smugglers arrested in the beginning of this year, and the courts would also try government officials who had enriched themselves from state coffers illegally. Sabdrat said billion of dollars had been siphoned by these officials.