Home | News    Sunday 19 June 2005

Sudan court suspends newspaper for 3 months

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KHARTOUM, Sudan, June 18, 2005 (AP) — A Khartoum court on Saturday suspended a newspaper for three months for publishing an article last month considered by Muslims to be blasphemous, the official Sudan News Agency reported.

Men read newspapers in Khartoum. (AFP).

The Al-Wifaq daily was also fined 8,000,000 Sudanese pounds (about $3,200) for the outcry it prompted in this conservative African Muslim nation when it republished an article from the Internet that questioned the parentage of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Editor Mohamed Taha Mohamed Ahmed apologized in a letter to the press, saying he did not intend to insult the prophet. The article angered Muslims of different sects, some gathered in protest demanding Ahmed’s execution.

Al-Wifaq had already been ordered to suspend printing by Sudan’s press and publications attorney on May 9. Saturday’s court ruling will consider the suspension from that date.

Ahmed himself was cleared of blasphemy charges, but he remains in detention for violating a previous three day suspension order and ignoring another ruling banning the media from writing about the case.

The government had held the trial behind closed doors and banned media coverage.

Some observers said the verdict was too lenient in Sudan, where blasphemy and insulting Islam can invoke the death penalty in Sudan. The government has ruled by Islamic Sharia law since 1983.

SUNA reported that the plaintiffs who spearheaded the campaign against Ahmed, a group representing Muslim scholars, said they would appeal the verdict.

Sudan has a history of suspending newspapers and detaining journalists. The government has officially lifted state censorship of newspapers, but press restrictions continue.

Earlier this month, Sudan’s only English-language newspaper has been ordered to cease publication while its license is reviewed, the newspaper’s editor said.

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