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Sudan court adjourns 'trouser' case
Judge postpones trial of female journalist accused of "dressing indecently".
Last Modified: 29 Jul 2009 19:11 GMT
Women in northern Sudan usually dress in traditional outfits that include a large shawl [GALLO/GETTY]

A Sudanese court has adjourned the case of a woman who was arrested and charged with dressing indecently after she was seen wearing trousers in a Khartoum cafe.

A judge on Wednesday deferred the case of Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, a noted columnist and a press officer at the United Nations Mission in Sudan, after she waived the immunity given to UN workers.

"The court gave Lubna the choice either to accept immunity from the UN or to waive that and go on with the trial," Nabil Adeeb, her lawyer, said.

But al-Hussein, who has made her trial a public campaign, inviting local and foreign journalists to attend, told the packed court: "I wish to resign from the UN, I wish this court case to continue."

Al-Hussein was arrested, along with 13 other women, in a raid on a Khartoum cafe in early July and charged with breaching Islamic law.

Public order cases in Sudan are usually dealt with quickly and 10 of the women were fined about $120 and given 10 lashes as punishment, but al-Hussein demanded a lawyer and delayed her trial.

'Unconstitutional trial'

Al-Hussein described the article of the law under which he was put on trial as vague and unconstitutional.

"The article [under the law] used to charge me is vague and does not really mean anything. It talks about clothing which causes public offense," she told Al Jazeera.

"I want to ask the authorities to define what clothing exactly causes offense to the public. Trousers are the official uniform for Sudanese women soldiers and officers. So how come now trousers have become indecent? This is my question: Are trousers un-Islamic for the general public but permissible for government workers?

"As for the article in question, I am determined to take this to court, not to prove my innocence but because it is unconstitutional."

'Subduing' women

Al-Hussein said that she decided to speak out because flogging is a practice many women endure in silence.

"Let the people see for themselves. It is not only my issue," she said.

"This is retribution to thousands of girls who are facing flogging for the last 20 years because of wearing trousers. They prefer to remain silent."

The case was adjourned until August 4.

Police have also cracked down on Amal Habbani, another female journalist, after she wrote an article condemning al-Hussein's treatment.

Habbani wrote an article for Ajrass Al-Horreya newspaper following the arrests entitled "Lubna, a case of subduing a woman's body".

Women in northern Sudan usually dress in traditional outfits that include a shawl over their head and shoulders. Western dress is uncommon.

Sharia, or Islamic law, governs the north of Sudan.

The mainly Christian and animist south of the country is exempt under a 2005 peace deal that ended a decades-long long civil war.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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