Sudan author says fined over fuel-price protests

AFP , Thursday 5 Dec 2013

A Sudanese author said she was convicted Thursday of causing a "disturbance" during protests sparked by rising fuel prices but claimed she was only exercising her right to demonstrate peacefully.

Rania Mamoun said a court in Wad Medani town convicted her of disturbing public safety and found her brother guilty of "public nuisance."

Theirs were among the few guilty verdicts recorded after the September protests, which led to the detention of hundreds of people.

She said they had been ordered to pay 500 pounds (about $65/48 euros) or spend a month in jail.

"The fine was paid with the help of friends and lawyers that were present," she added, maintaining they had done nothing wrong.

"We exercised our constitutional right to engage in peaceful demonstration."

Another woman was acquitted, Mamoun said, after the court had previously freed five men on protest-related charges.

Mamoun has published short stories and a novel, according to her biography on the website of Banipal, a magazine of Arabic-language literature.

Wad Medani, in an agricultural region south of Khartoum, was where the protests began on September 23 after President Omar al-Bashir slashed petrol subsidies, raising pump prices by more than 60 percent.

Protests quickly spread to the capital, where thousands took to the streets with calls for the downfall of the regime.

It was the worst urban unrest of Bashir's 24-year rule.

Security forces are believed to have killed more than 200 demonstrators, many with gunshots to the head and chest, Amnesty International said.

Authorities gave a toll of less than half that and said they had to intervene when crowds turned violent, attacking petrol stations and police facilities.

The government initially said it had detained 700 "criminals" after the protests but authorities later said most had been released.

Fifty-eight would be brought to court, Bashir said in late October.

Among those convicted were four adults whom a court in Khartoum's Haj Yousef district jailed for six months each on disturbance charges.

Four youths were also convicted in Haj Yousef, but the court threw out charges against 27 other people.

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