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Court acquits journalist who was hounded by intelligence officers

(RSF/IFEX) - 31 May 2012 - Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that Faisal Mohammed Salih, a freelance journalist who had been harassed by the National Intelligence and Security Services ever since he criticized President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in an interview for Al-Jazeera on 24 April, was acquitted today on a charge of refusing to cooperate with the authorities.

“We welcome the decision to acquit Salih on this trumped-up charge,” Reporters Without Borders said. “In Sudan, criticizing the government can have consequences for journalists, including acts of intimidation, arrest and criminal prosecutions. Journalists end up censoring themselves out of concern for their safety. The intelligence officers who harassed Salih should be punished.”

After giving the Al-Jazeera interview, Salih was summoned to NISS headquarters every day for nearly two weeks and each time was made to wait for up to eight hours without being interrogated. Then he was jailed for six days until released on bail pending today's trial before a criminal court in Khartoum.

Agence France-Presse reported that, when announcing today's verdict, the judge said he had taken account of the fact that the NISS had put his life in danger by refusing to give him food or water while making him wait for hours at a time each day.

Salih is due to appear in court again on a different matter on 11 June.

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