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Two Egyptians sentenced to six months in prison after selling book on prophet's wife at Khartoum fair

(HRinfo/IFEX) - The following is a joint statement by HRinfo and 10 other organizations:

The inquisition is back again! Two Egyptians sentenced to 6 months in prison in Sudan

Cairo, December 17, 2007 - The organizations signing this statement condemn the court sentence issued on 16 December 2007 against two Egyptian citizens in Sudan charged with insulting Islam. A Sudanese court sentenced Abdel Fattah El-Sadany (30 years old) and Mahrous Mohammed Abdel-Azim (30 years old) to imprisonment for six months on charges of insulting the Islamic religion on the grounds that they had distributed a book about Al-Sayeda Aisha (the Prophet Mohammed's wife) during their participation in the Khartoum International Book Fair.

The whole affair started on 11 December when the Sudanese security authorities arrested both Abdel Fattah Al-Sadany and Mahrous Mohammed Abdul Azim, who work for the Madbouly Publishing House of Egypt, on the charge of insulting Islamic religion for distributing a book entitled "The Prophet's wife eats her children up", by the Syrian writer Nabil Fayyad. The book includes sentiments considered critical of Al-Sayeda Aisha.

The book, published by the London-based publisher Dar al-Jamal, was already on display at the book fair in the outlets of other publishing houses. Madbouly Publishing House had received prior permission from the Sudanese authorities to distribute the book in question.

Eyewitnesses said the agents that arrested the two Egyptian workers were accompanied by members of the fundamentalist group of Ansar Al-Sunna. A member of that group apparently bought the book from the Madbouly Publishing House outlet in the book fair. He then denounced the publishing house and its employees to the authorities.

The defendants were sent to a speedy trial - was perhaps one of the fastest trials in history - were found guilty yesterday and were sentenced to six months in prison. The security conditions and judicial process were such that the fairness and independence of the judicial ruling could not be guaranteed. Reportedly, the defendants did not have a lawyer attending the trial, in a clear violation of Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The defendants have 15 days to appeal the sentence.

Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, both defendants will spend the Muslim feast "Eid Al Ad'ha" away from their family in very bad psychological conditions in a prison where conditions are inhumane.

It is noteworthy that this is not the first incident of suppressing freedoms and the confiscation of books in the Sudanese Book Fair. The 2006 Book Fair also witnessed confiscation of all Shiite books and the closure of the outlets of Iranian publishing houses in the Book Fair, and the deportation of members of the Iranian delegation to their country. This year, the Book Fair also witnessed the confiscation of several books about Shiite beliefs and a book on Darfur crisis, "Darfur, history of war and genocide", published by Horizons House. Several publishing houses have been subjected to repeated inspections and monitoring by censorship officials and state security officers.

The undersigned organizations condemn this unjust sentence against the 2 Egyptian citizens and consider it as a violation against freedom of opinion and expression, and a violation of the right to a fair trial, a rights endorsed by international human rights treaties ratified by the Sudanese government, and is part of the internal Sudanese laws according to the Sudanese Constitution. And therefore they and call on the Sudanese authorities for the immediate release of the two Egyptian citizens in custody in fulfillment to the provisions of the law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and also taking into account the humanitarian conditions of two innocent people charged of a crime that they didn't commit.

The undersigned also call on Egyptian authorities as well all organizations and bodies in and outside Egypt to intervene to urge the immediate release of the defendants in custody and to take all legal and diplomatic procedures to ensure an end to this humanitarian situation as soon as possible.

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Hisham Mubarak Law Center
Nadeem Center for Psychological Therapy and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Violence
Egyptian Association Against Torture
Habi Center for Environmental Rights
Habi Center for Environmental Rights
The Civil Observatory of Human Rights Association
Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
United Journalists Center
Arabic Program for Human Rights Activists
Arabic Association for Supporting Civil Society & Human Rights
Association of Freedom of Thought & Expression

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