(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International is extremely concerned about the condition and whereabouts of the Sudanese poet Abdelmoniem Rahma, who was arrested on 2 September 2011 in Blue Nile State, Sudan. He was reportedly tried in a military court in November and there have been alarming reports that he has since been sentenced to death. It is unclear, however, on what charges he has been convicted. He has been denied access to a lawyer and his family do not know his whereabouts. There are also credible reports that he has been tortured. The WiPC calls on the Sudanese authorities to release Rahma, to repeal the reported death sentence against him, to clarify on what grounds he has been convicted and to allow him access to legal counsel.
Abdelmoniem Rahma is well-known as a journalist, poet and activist. He co-founded the daily newspaper Ajras al-Hurriya (Bells of Freedom), which was shut down by the Sudanese authorities days before South Sudan's independence on 9 July 2011. He is also the former head of Sudana, an arts and literature organisation. During the 1980s he was a member of the Sudanese Writers' Union and between 2003 and 2005 Rahma headed the Arabic section of the Sudan Radio Service network in Nairobi. Rahma also developed a travelling theatre to promote peaceful dialogue among Sudan's diverse cultures.
Reports coming out of Sudan regarding Abdelmoniem Rahma are scant and difficult to verify. However, the belief held by his former colleagues that Rahma was targeted because of his affiliation with the political movement The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) is convincing. Rahma was reportedly tried alongside 18 members of the SPLM-N in November 2011.
In March 2012, it was reported that the Attorney General's office had completed investigations on 132 detainees, including Rahma and that all had been accused of crimes against the state and espionage. However, lawyers following the case have not been given any details of the charges.
On 1 September 2011 fighting broke out in Blue Nile State, bordering South Sudan, between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N). On 2 September, Sudanese President al-Bashir declared a state of emergency in Blue Nile and appointed a military governor to the state.
The fighting in Blue Nile followed tensions between Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) over security arrangements in the border areas prior to South Sudan's independence on 9 July 2011. Following South Sudan's independence, the SPLM-North, which was previously part of the southern SPLM, was formed in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Over 55,000 people have been displaced from Blue Nile State and have sought refuge in neighbouring Ethiopia and South Sudan. Independent observers and aid workers have been prevented from entering Blue Nile State since the fighting broke out.
Please send appeals:
- calling on the authorities to release Rahma
- calling on the authorities to repeal the death sentence if Rahma has been sentenced to death before a military court
- urging the authorities to ensure that Rahma is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment
- calling on the authorities to grant Rahma immediate access to his family and lawyers, and to any medical treatment he might require following allegations of torture
Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir
Office of the President
People's Palace PO Box 281
Fax: 00249 183 782 541
Salutation: Your Excellency
Minister of Justice
Mohammed Bushara Dousa
Ministry of Justice, PO Box 302
Al Nil Avenue
Fax: 00249 183 764 168
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Your Excellency
Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 14 August 2012.