Sudanese journalist charged with ‘waging war’ against state

New York, April 14, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on the Sudanese authorities to immediately drop criminal charges against prominent journalist and opposition party member Al-Haj Ali Warrag. 

The National Press Council’s lead attorney charged Warrag on Sunday under the Sudanese Penal Code with “waging war against the state,” in connection with an article published on April 6 in the independent daily Ajras al-Huriya, the journalist told CPJ.  Warrag is the former editor of Ajras al-Huriya. If convicted, he could face up to one year in prison. The National Press Council is Sudan‘s official press regulator, operating under the supervision of the Minister of Information and Communications.

Warrag’s opinion piece expressed support for an election boycott called by Yasser Arman, the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. The journalist also alleged that the ruling National Congress Party was rigging the presidential, legislative, and local elections. Monday was the first day of Sudan’s first multiparty presidential, parliamentary, and state assembly polls in 24 years.

“The charges against Al-Haj Ali Warrag make a mockery of the Sudanese authorities’ stated commitment to free expression by persecuting a critical voice,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator, Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “We call on the authorities to drop these charges immediately.”

Warrag told CPJ that the charges were clearly “political persecution and has nothing to do with the law. “These elections are supposed to mark a new democratic era but instead the government proved once again that it will not tolerate criticisms of its politics and practices,” he said.