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Woman in Sudan trouser case gets travel ban
LUBNA HUSSEIN, the Sudanese woman facing a punishment of 40 lashes if convicted of violating the country’s decency laws, has told of how the authorities in Sudan have banned her from travelling abroad.

Ms Hussein, who resigned from her job with the United Nations and thereby waived the immunity from prosecution that her position gave her, has elected to stand trial on the charges brought against her so that she may expose what she claims are the restrictive laws imposed on women in Sudan.

Whilst attempting to leave Sudan for the Lebanon, where she was due to appear on a show on Al-Arabiya television to discuss her case, the journalist, who is widowed and in her late thirties, has discovered that she has been placed on a travel blacklist. The New York Times reports on a conversation that Ms Hussein had with Reuters in which she said: “It emerged when I tried to get an exit visa that my name was on a blacklist. There is no way to get out of Sudan.”

Nabil Adib Abdalla, who is the defense lawyer for Ms Hussein, has insisted that the authorities have no legal right to simply ban his client from leaving the country. A court order would need to be issued and even then his client, who is on bail pending her trial on September 7, could lodge an appeal against the order. Part of the defense that Mr Abdalla will be presenting on behalf of Ms Hussein is that the law in Sudan is so vague with regard to what is and what is not considered decent in terms of women‘s clothing and furthermore individual police officers are allowed to interpret the laws as they wish.

According to the BBC non-Muslims living in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, where Ms Hussein was first arrested whilst attending a party on July 3, should be exempt from Sharia law. Indeed the BBC’s correspondent in the city says that Muslim and non- Muslim women alike can be seen wearing trousers in the capital. However there is some dispute as to whether the case is related to Sharia or whether it has been brought in accordance with Sudan’s criminal law.

One possible reason for the restrictions placed on the movements of Ms Hussein is the invitation she has received to visit France from President Nicholas Sarkozy. If she made such a visit it would doubtless generate even more publicity for her cause. And the official at the airport who advised Ms Hussein that she could not leave Sudan told her also that the authorities had decided on the travel ban the very same day that President Sarkozy’s invitation was made public.

Whilst 10 of the women arrested at the party with Ms Hussein have accepted their guilt and received already their punishment of lashes, there appears to be little prospect that she will change her mind and submit herself to the whip. In another conversation Ms Hussein had with the international media, this one with the Associated Press, she had this message for both the authorities in Sudan and all those elsewhere in the world watching her case with such interest: “If the intent is to prevent me from speaking or censor my words... they are then naive, because I can speak on the phone, through satellite, anytime.”

Sudan is of course a country that has attracted much international attention in recent years. There has been sporadic violence between forces from the mainly Muslim north of the country and those from the predominantly Christian south. Then there is the conflict in the region of Darfur, described essentially as a conflict between Arab and non-Arab forces rather than one with religious origins, which has in the past led the U.S. government to declare that genocide has been committed by the Arab forces who receive support from the Sudanese
 

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