In the latest in a series of clampdowns on independent newspapers, the court on Monday ruled on a lawsuit filed by National Press Council Secretary General Hashim al-Jaz against the Alazminah Times for a report by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RWB), alleging Jaz had links with the security services.

  

Omar Ismail, the chief editor of Alazminah Times, said his independent daily was punished under an article in the national press law banning publication of an unconfirmed report, but he pointed out the RWB report was published worldwide.

  

Ismail said the Khartoum North Criminal Court ordered the daily closed for three days from Monday and ordered him to pay a fine of 500,000 Sudanese pounds (about $190) or serve a month in jail. He added he paid the fine to avoid imprisonment.

 

Al-Jaz had demanded 200 million Sudanese pounds in damages for defamation.

  

Acquittal

 

However, presiding judge Muhammad Sir al-Khatim acquitted the newspaper of the defamation charge, according to Ismail and an official at the press council who asked not to be named.

  

Meanwhile, another independent daily, Al-Ayam, reappeared on Monday for the first time in three months after the state Security Authority suspended its complaint against the newspaper.

  

However, the English-language Khartoum Monitor, an independent daily that was closed at the same time as Al-Ayam, remained closed.

  

Monitor editor Alfred Taban said he would contact the authorities to find out why his newspaper was not allowed to resume publication.

  

The newspapers said they had been closed without clear explanation.

  

At the time, the US government denounced the closure of the two newspapers, saying it cast doubt on Khartoum's commitment to press freedom and hindered progress in improving ties between the two countries.