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Sudan releases around two hundred imprisoned women

June 17, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Sudanese authorities have released Saturday around two hundred women imprisoned for brewing illegal alcohol after presidential decree at the end of May.

Director of the General Administration for Prisons, Maj. Gen. (Police) Mohamed Osman al-Naw, has announced the release of 198 female inmates from the Women Prison in Omdurman, in application of the Ministerial Decree No. 110.

Al-Naw said that other lists were prepared for the release of other women inmates in all prisons, adding that these lists would be forwarded by the Prisons Administration to the Presidency of the Republic for the purpose of a Republican Decree on the women release.

Sudan’s largest women’s prison in Omdurman holds between 800 to 1,100 inmates, mostly southerners who fled the north-south civil war to live in slums surrounding the capital Khartoum.

At the end of the joint meeting of ruling NCP, SPLM last May, Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has decreed all women imprisoned for brewing illegal alcohol should be released, ending a vicious cycle affecting southern widows trying to feed their families in Khartoum.

Women with as many as eight children, often widowed, make and sell home-brewed alcohol known locally as Aragi or Mireisse to feed their families.

Selling alcohol in Sudan is illegal under Islamic Sharia law, which was imposed in 1983 and was one of the catalysts for the war between the mostly Christian and animist south and the Islamist government in Khartoum.

Under the deal Islamic law has been lifted in southern Sudan and a new constitution enshrines religious freedom throughout the country. A commission to protect the rights of non-Muslims in the northern capital Khartoum is formed last week.

(ST)