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Sudan: Omar al-Bashir to face trial over corruption allegations

Last month, Sudan’s public prosecutor ordered the questioning of Bashir over money-laundering and “financing terrorism”.

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Omar al Bashir to face trial over corruption allegations | News Central TV
Ousted Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Sudan’s public prosecutor has charged ousted president Omar al-Bashir of corruption, the official SUNA news agency said on Thursday.

The announcement came more than two month after the military ousted Bashir on April 11 following months of nationwide protests against his 30-year iron-fisted rule.

“The public prosecutor announces the completion of all investigations in the case brought against the deposed president Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir by anti-corruption prosecutors,” SUNA said.

An unnamed official was quoted by the agency as saying that Bashir is facing charges including “possessing foreign funds, acquiring suspected and illegal wealth and ordering (the state of) emergency”.

In April, Sudan’s army ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said that more than 113 million dollars worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s residence.

He said a team of police, army and security agents found seven million euros ($7.8 million), $350,000 and five billion Sudanese pounds ($105 million) during a search at Bashir’s home. 

Bashir swept to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989. 

Sudan suffered high rates of corruption under his rule ranking 172 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Last month, Sudan’s public prosecutor ordered the questioning of Bashir over money-laundering and “financing terrorism”.

In an effort to quell protests that erupted against his rule in December, Bashir had imposed a nationwide state of emergency on February 22.

In May the prosecutor general said that Bashir had been charged over the killings of protesters during the anti-regime demonstrations that led to the end of his rule.

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Morocco frees journalist jailed for abortion after royal pardon

Hajar Raissouni was sentenced on September 30, along with her Sudanese fiancé for having sexual relations out of wedlock

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Morocco frees journalist jailed for abortion after royal pardon
Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni (R) flashes the victory sign upon leaving a prison in Sale near the capital Rabat on October 16, 2019. - Raissouni who was sentenced to one year in jail for an "illegal abortion" and sexual relations outside marriage walked free on today, hours after being granted a royal pardon. She was sentenced on September 30, along with her Sudanese fiance, a gynaecologist, anaesthetist and a medical assistant, whose convictions were also overturned, an official told AFP. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni who was sentenced to one year in jail for an “illegal abortion” and sexual relations outside marriage walked free on Wednesday, shortly after being granted a royal pardon.

In a case that had provoked a storm of protests from rights groups, the justice ministry said the 28-year-old woman was released on a pardon issued by King Mohammed VI.

Rassiouni was sentenced on September 30, along with her Sudanese fiancé, a gynaecologist, anaesthetist and a medical assistant, whose convictions were also overturned, an official told reporters.

The journalist made a victory sign to the waiting media as they emerged from El-Arjat prison near Rabat, but she made no statement before joining her family and friends.

The ministry said the monarch wanted to help “preserve the future of the couple, who wanted to establish a family in line with our religious and legal precepts, despite the error they made”.

The amnesty was decided on the grounds of “compassion”, it said.

A government source told reporters the ruling was made “without entering into the debate that is sovereign to Moroccan citizens on the evolution of their society and in which, regrettably, certain foreigners, intellectuals, media and NGOs invited themselves to take part”.

The journalist at the Akhbar Al-Yaoum newspaper, which has a history of run-ins with the authorities, denounced the affair as a “political trial”, saying she had been questioned by police about her family and her writing.

Youne Maskine, a director of Akhbar Al-Yaoum, took to Twitter to hail “finally a wise decision”. 

READ: Moroccan journalist says police forced her to take medical test

Morocco frees journalist jailed for abortion after royal pardon
Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni (L) is greeted by her boyfriend Rifaat Al Amine upon leaving a prison in Sale, near the capital Rabat, on October 16, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Raissouni was arrested on August 31 as she left a clinic in Rabat. In court, she denied having had an abortion, saying she had been treated for internal bleeding — testimony backed up by her gynaecologist.

She was sentenced under Article 490 of the Muslim-majority kingdom’s legal code.

That article punishes sexual relations out of wedlock, while the law also forbids all abortions unless the mother’s life is in danger.

‘Obsolete’ ban –

In a case that sparked widespread debate on personal and media freedoms in Morocco, her gynaecologist, who spoke up in her defence, was given two years and her fiancé one year in prison.

The anaesthetist was handed a one-year suspended sentence and the medical assistant eight months, also suspended.

Morocco frees journalist jailed for abortion after royal pardon
Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni (L) is greeted by her mother upon leaving a prison in Sale near the capital Rabat on October 16, 2019. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Rights groups were quick to condemn the verdicts, which Amnesty International described as a “devastating blow for women’s rights” in the country. 

Ahmed Benchemsi, the regional director for Human Rights Watch, described the sentencing of Raissouni and her fiancé as a “black day for freedom in Morocco”.

The verdicts were “a blatant injustice, a flagrant violation of human rights, and a frontal attack on individual freedoms,” he wrote on Twitter.

The prosecution insisted she had been seen by a medic and showed signs of pregnancy and of having undergone a “late voluntary abortion”.

It had said her detention had “nothing to do with her profession as a journalist”.

READ: Moroccan journalist arrested over “Illegal abortion”

Between 600 and 800 back-shop abortions occur each day in Morocco, according to estimates by campaign groups.

In a manifesto published on September 23 by Moroccan media outlets, hundreds of women declared themselves “outlaws” by claiming to have already violated the “obsolete” laws of their country on abortion and other social norms.

In the early 1970s, in a similar text, French women calling themselves the “343 sluts” famously declared they had had an abortion when it was still illegal.

Last year, Morocco tried thousands of people for sex out of wedlock, 170 people for being gay and 73 for pregnancy terminations.

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Sudanese Muslim cleric slams new women’s football league

Cleric Abdel Hay Youssef claims Islam prohibits women from playing football

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Sudanese Muslim cleric slams new women's football league
A picture taken on October 11, 2019 shows Sudanese hardline cleric Abdel Hay Youssef after Friday prayers at a mosque in Gabra neighborhood in the south of the capital Khartoum. - Crowds of Sudanese rallied after Friday prayers in support of the Islamist cleric who has slammed the new female sports minister Wala Essam for holding the country's first ever women's football league. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

Crowds rallied after Friday prayers in support of a hardline Islamist cleric who has slammed Sudan’s new female sports minister for backing the country’s first-ever women’s football league.

Sudan’s women’s football league held its first match on September 30 in the presence of the Minister of Sports Wala Essam and several foreign diplomats.

“We will give special attention to women’s sport and women’s football,”  Essam said at that time.

Cleric Abdel Hay Youssef, known for his fiery speeches and for backing ousted Islamist ruler Omar al-Bashir, claims Islam prohibits women from playing football and has harshly criticised Essam for supporting the game.

Youssef supporters rallied outside a mosque in south Khartoum where the cleric preaches, chanting slogans of support for him, a correspondent said.

“We are with you Abdel Hay Youssef,” chanted the crowds, a correspondent said.

Some even called the cleric “Amir al-Muminin” (Arabic for “Commander of the Faithful)”.

According to media reports, Youssef had links with Al-Qaeda and financed and trained fighters of the Islamic State group in Libya. He has denied these accusations.

Women’s football has faced an uphill fight in Sudan since the country adopted Islamic sharia law in 1983, six years before Bashir had seized power in an Islamist-backed coup.

Bashir was ousted by the army in a palace coup on April 11 on the back of nationwide protests against his iron-fisted rule of three decades.

Islamist parties stayed on the sidelines during the protests while women played a central role.

A new joint civilian-military ruling body, called the sovereign council, is governing the country for a transition period of 39 months.

The launch of a women’s football league came amid expectations that the transition period will see liberal policies implemented in Sudan, including measures to promote freedom of speech, women’s rights, sport and arts.

Last year, Saudi Arabia allowed women to attend a football match for the first time ever in the conservative Muslim-ruled kingdom.

And on Thursday, women attended a football match for the first time in decades in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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Eight years on from the Arab Spring Tunisia looks back

Ahead of Sunday’s presidential runoff vote, here is a recap of key developments in Tunisia since its 2011 revolution.

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Ahead of Sunday’s presidential runoff vote, here is a recap of key developments in Tunisia since its 2011 revolution.

President flees 

Demonstrations erupt in central Tunisia in December 2010 after the self-immolation of a fruit seller protesting police harassment and unemployment.

After weeks of unrest in which 338 people are killed, dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali flees in January 2011, ending 23 years in power. 

He is the first leader to be toppled by the Arab Spring, which spreads through the region like wildfire.

Read Also: Tunisia prepares for Arab League Summit with high hopes

 Victory for Islamists 

In October 2011, Tunisia’s first free election sees Islamist group Ennahda win 89 of 217 seats in a new constituent assembly. 

The assembly elects former opposition leader Moncef Marzouki as president in December. Hamadi Jebali, Ennahda’s number two, is charged with forming a government.

Attacks

In April 2012, police clash with thousands of jobless protesters in the southwestern mining belt.

More violent demonstrations follow in June and August, and jihadists stage attacks.

In September, hundreds of demonstrators attack the US embassy, in protest at an online US-made film that mocked Islam.

A series of strikes and demonstrations affect industry, public services, transport and business, with unrest mostly in the economically marginalised interior.

Opposition leaders killed 

In February 2013, prominent leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid was assassinated in Tunis, four month later In July, fellow leftist Mohamed Brahmi is also shot dead.

Islamic State (IS) group claim both killings.

Democratic transition 

In January 2014, a new constitution is adopted, a year later than planned. A government of technocrats is formed and Islamists withdraw from power. In October, the secular Nidaa Tounes party led by Beji Caid Essebsi comes top in parliamentary polls and forms a coalition with Ennahda. Two months later, Essebsi wins Tunisia’s first free presidential election.

String of attacks 

In 2015, Tunisia suffers three attacks claimed by IS militants.

The attacks left 72 dead, mostly foreign tourists and security personnel, including at the Bardo Museum in Tunis and a coastal resort.

In 2016, jihadists attack security installations in a town on the Libyan border, killing 13 members of the security services and seven civilians.

Fresh protests 

In January 2016, a new wave of protests erupted after the death of a young unemployed man in a demonstration.

In May, the International Monetary Fund green lights a new four-year loan of $2.9 billion.

In January 2018, protests erupt after an austerity budget takes effect.

Political instability 

Essebsi in September announces the end of his party’s alliance with Ennahda, which had been part of a unity government since 2016. In July 2019, the ailing Essebsi dies aged 92, months before the end of his term.

In August a newcomer to the political arena who is running for president in elections set for the following month, Nabil Karoui, is arrested on charges of money laundering.

He nonetheless comes second in the first round of the vote in September, with nearly 16 percent behind independent law professor Kais Saied who has 18 percent.

In legislative elections on October 6, Ennahda takes the most seats — 52 out of 217 — but far short of the 109 needed to govern.

In a further twist, Karoui is released from jail on October 9, days ahead of the presidential runoff vote.

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