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Cablegate: Lubna Hussein Continues Her Crusade Against Sharia Law

VZCZCXRO3055
OO RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #1214 3020628
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 290628Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4646
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001214

NSC FOR MGAVIN, LETIM
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KPAO OIIP SOCI SU
SUBJECT: LUBNA HUSSEIN CONTINUES HER CRUSADE AGAINST SHARIA LAW

REF: A) KHARTOUM 870 B) KHARTOUM 888 C) KHARTOUM 905
D) KHARTOUM 1020 E) KHARTOUM 1036

1. (SBU) Summary: Almost four months after journalist and former
United Nations press employee Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein gained
tremendous international attention for wearing pants in public, she
appears determined not to allow the incident to quietly fade away.
Despite threats and travel restrictions, she continues to pursue a
conviction reversal and is suing a government official for
defamation of character. Her goal is to effect changes in Sudan's
system of Sharia Law. End summary.

-----------------------------
Not Willing to Let Issue Fade
-----------------------------

2. (SBU) On October 26, Lubna Hussein told poloff of her continuing
appeal to overturn the September 7 conviction of violating Sudanese
criminal code article 152 (indecent dress). Hussein served one day
in jail after her 500SDG (approximately USD220) fine was paid, on
her behalf and against her wishes, by the head of the pro-government
Sudanese Journalists' Union. Having appealed her conviction upon
her release, she awaits a response from the judicial system.
Hussein admitted that she hopes (and expects) to lose this appeal so
that she can take the issue further and appeal it to the
Constitutional Court of Sudan.

3. (SBU) Ms. Hussein has also filed a defamation lawsuit against the
Speaker of the National Legislative Assembly, Ahmed Ibrahim
Al-Tahir. She accused the speaker of making slanderous comments
about her in a press interview that was published in an
Arabic-language newspaper. She believes the comments taint her
reputation and negatively affect her appeal. Ms. Hussein requested
the lifting of the speaker's immunity in order to pursue a case
against him; however, the request was rejected. Hussein was
insistent that she will continue looking for a way to pursue both
her appeal and the defamation lawsuit. She claimed her objective is
to test Sudanese laws and judicial procedures until she finds
justice even in an instance where the accused is a government
official. She acknowledged that her case is minor compared to other
situations, especially in Darfur, but she believes that her efforts
will ultimately benefit all Sudanese women.

--------------------------------
Threatened and Denied Exit Visas
--------------------------------

4. (SBU) Since the arrest of Ms. Hussein on July 3, she was denied
an exit visa to travel outside of Sudan on two separate occasions.
In August, prior to her trial and conviction, she was denied
permission to travel to Lebanon. Ms. Hussein claimed her request did
not go through the normal court process for a decision but rather
was refused immediately by the police. (Note: Sudan customarily
denies travel for defendants out on bond awaiting trial. End note.)
A second exit visa request for travel to the United Kingdom in
October made it all the way to the court judge for a response, but
authorities similarly denied this request. Hussein claimed the
Government of Sudan (GOS) has placed her under a complete ban and
will not allow her to travel via any means, whether by land, air or
sea.

5. (SBU) Although she did not appear overly concerned, Hussein
acknowledged receiving numerous anonymous threats, including death
and rape threats. Some of the individuals who contacted Hussein
have threatened further charges against her, including crimes that,
if she were to be convicted, could result in the punishment of
stoning, as permitted under Sharia Law. (Note: Although stoning is
cited as a punishment for some acts in Sudan, the punishment has not
been carried out in recent memory. End note.) Even though friends
and colleagues have warned her of the dangers of challenging the
government so directly, she does not seem daunted. Hussein claimed
to have refused suggestions from activist groups who believe she
should leave Sudan. Instead, she has vowed to stay and continue her
efforts to change the law.

6. (SBU) Comment: While GOS officials may wish to sweep this case
under the rug and let it die quietly in the media, Hussein is
determined to persist and keep it alive. It is unlikely that she
will be successful at getting immunity lifted from a high-level
government official, but she is not afraid to push the envelope and
force open previously-closed doors. Through her determined efforts,
her case continues to progress in full public view. Aware as she is
of the international draw of her case, she has recently signed a
book contract with a French publisher. End Comment.

WHITEHEAD

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