Thursday 23 November 2017

Sudan frees editor jailed over president family graft allegations

Sudan frees editor jailed over president family graft allegations
(AFP 10/25/17)

Sudan on Tuesday freed a newspaper editor, jailed over an article accusing President Omar al-Bashir's family of corruption, after a local journalist union paid off his fine.

A court in Khartoum on Monday ordered Osman Mirgani, editor-in-chief of the independent Al-Tayar newspaper, to either serve a six-month jail sentence or pay a fine of 10,000 Sudanese pounds ($1,400) for publishing the article in 2012 that accused Bashir's family of corruption.

Mirgani refused to pay the fine and was taken to a jail in Omdurman, the twin city of Khartoum on the western banks of the Nile.

But following just one night in prison he was released on Tuesday after the Sudanese Journalists' Union covered the fine.

"We paid the money because we believe that no journalist should be in jail," Salah Sheikh, general secretary of the union, told AFP.

"Now that he has been released, he can file an appeal against the court's ruling."

Mirgani, a US-educated engineer turned journalist who has regularly clashed with the authorities, said he had not been informed by the union before it came up with the cash.

"Today the journalists union paid the money... It's against my principle to pay fines in such cases," Mirgani told AFP at his office after his release.

The court had also given a three-year suspended jail term to the writer of the piece, Mohamed Zine El Abidine.

In the article, El Abidine had accused Bashir's family of being corrupt, Mirgani said.

After the article was published, Sudan's powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) filed cases against both Mirgani and El Abidine.

Mirgani has been regularly targeted for his aggressive style of speaking out against the authorities and over corruption scandals his paper has exposed over the years.

NISS agents often confiscate the entire print runs of editions of Al-Tayar over articles that they deem inappropriate.

Mirgani was once beaten up by armed men who stormed his office in central Khartoum in July 2014.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Sudan 174th out of 180 countries on its 2017 world press freedom index, saying that NISS "hounds journalists and censors the print media".

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