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Murky Justice: After release of SUDO Chair, appeal against conviction must be allowed and SUDO permitted to operate normally.


Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, Chair of the Sudan Social Development Organization, (SUDO), was released this morning, 25 January 2011, from Gereif Prison in Sudan. In a further travesty of due process he was brought a piece of paper to the prison which stated that the appeal court had, in his absence and the absence of his lawyers, upheld his conviction but decided that he had served a long enough sentence and should be released from prison immediately.

Speaking from his home in Khartoum shortly after his release Dr Mudawi said:

"It has been an experience to see how justice in Sudan is being practiced and implemented and which rule of law does exist for the normal fellow Sudanese. Am out of prison more dedicated and determined to defend human rights and justice. It is your solidarity and your pressure that forced my release and I need this to continue fighting to that endeavour."

On 22 December 2010 Dr Mudawi had been sentenced to one year's imprisonment for financial mismanagement after the Sudan Government's Humanitarian Aid Commission appealed in April 2010 against his acquittal the previous month of the financial charges they had brought against him.

The procedure through which Dr Mudawi was imprisoned with no proper court hearing was deeply flawed and the procedure which has released him maintaining a conviction without any appeal hearing is equally flawed.

Dr Mudawi was acquitted of financial mismanagement by the Criminal Court on 15 March 2010. In the sitting of the of the same court and the same judge Abdel Monim Mohammed Saleim on 22 December 2010 which reversed the acquittal there was no hearing and no new evidence was presented: Dr Mudawi and his lawyers were summoned to court after many postponements, the verdict was read out without any preliminaries and Dr Mudawi was immediately taken to prison. Now, once again, the court has tried to avoid a hearing of Dr Mudawi's appeal against his conviction by issuing a piece of paper rather than by listening to arguments in open court.

SUDO UK welcomes Dr Mudawi's release, but this murky justice which is no justice must end. The conviction without any hearing of the appeal allows a criminal conviction against Dr Mudawi, who also teaches in the University of Khartoum and runs a mechanical engineering business, to remain. The Sudanese security have a history of hounding Dr Mudawi, and will continue to do so. The appeal in the financial case against Dr Mudawi should be heard properly in open court so that his name can be cleared. In addition the Sudan government should respect the verdict of the Administrative Appeals Court which ruled in April 2010 that it was illegal to close SUDO and allow SUDO and other closed human rights organizations to operate freely.

Both the conviction and the release are part of a long saga of the targeting of SUDO and Dr Mudawi by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). The Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO) is an organization which has worked to promotemsustainable development, human rights and to reconcile conflicts. SUDO was one of the fewmorganizations working in Darfur at the beginning of the crisis in 2003 when hundreds ofmthousands of people were subject to mass forcible expulsion from their villages and lands,killing, rape and pillage. As a result of SUDO's work Dr Mudawi won human rights awards from international organizations, Front Line and Human Rights First in 2005. Also as a result of his untiring work for human rights, between 2003 and 2005 Dr Mudawi suffered three periods of detention for up to eight months, charged with offences against the state but never brought to trial. Since then he has suffered short periods of detention.

The financial cases against Dr Mudawi started in 2006 by a colleague and the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), charging him with mismanagement of SUDO's finances. HAC is a government department in charge of humanitarian non-governmental organizations, Sudanese and foreign; key officials and many of those who work for it are close to the security services and are known to report to the government on Sudanese and international humanitarian organizations. Such an accusation of financial mismanagement against a human rights defender is particularly insidious. In the case of SUDO, the accusation against Dr Mudawi hung over him for years.

In the search for evidence of financial mismanagement HAC asked the auditor general of the Sudan Government to audit SUDO's accounts covering 2001 to 2005. The audit found no evidence of financial mismanagement and in fact showed that SUDO owed Dr. Mudawi over 22,000 Sudanese pounds. Meanwhile, the court hearings were constantly adjourned and the case continued until eventually the Khartoum Criminal Court acquitted Dr Mudawi of the charges on 15 March 2010. The present case is the result of HAC's appeal against this judgement.

On 5 March 2009, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Sudanese government and proxy forces' actions in Darfur after 2003. The Sudan Government immediately moved to close three leading human rights organizations, including SUDO, sealing their offices, seizing their assets, and freezing their funds. A total of 13 international humanitarian organizations working in Darfur were expelled. Throughout March 2009, Sudanese human rights activists were harassed and some arrested. Many human rights defenders feared arrest and left Sudan. However Dr Mudawi decided to remain in Sudan, and SUDO alone, of all the dissolved Sudanese human rights organizations, brought a case to challenge the order for its dissolution. This case was also frequently adjourned because of the prosecution's failure to appear. On 21 April 2010, after Dr Mudawi's victory in the financial case, the Administrative Appeals Court in Khartoum found that HAC had no power to close SUDO.

However, in Sudan you can win a case but nothing changes. SUDO's offices remained locked, its assets remained frozen, and the organization in Sudan was not allowed to resume operations.

Statement issued by SUDO (UK) on 25th January 2010.
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