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Woman On Trial for Wearing Pants

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Associated Press: KHARTOUM -- A Sudanese court on Wednesday adjourned the case of a woman journalist facing 40 lashes for wearing "indecent" trousers, with 10 women already whipped for similar offences against Islamic law.

Sudanese journalist Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein
The judge deferred the case to Tuesday after Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, who works for the left-wing Al-Sahafa newspaper and for the media department of the United Nations Mission in Sudan, waived the immunity given to UN workers.

"The court gave Lubna the choice either to accept immunity from the UN or to waive that and go on with the trial," her lawyer Nabil Adeeb told AFP.

"I wish to resign from the UN, I wish this court case to continue," Hussein told a packed courtroom before the judge adjourned the case to August 4.

Hussein, who wears a hijab or Islamic headscarf, faces 40 lashes and a fine of 250 Sudanese pounds (100 dollars) if found guilty.

She wore the same clothes to court as when she was arrested -- moss-green slacks with a loose floral top and green headscarf.

She waved defiantly to crowds as she left the court.

Hussein said she was at a restaurant on July 3 when police came in and ordered 13 women wearing trousers to follow them to the police station.

Ten of the women were summoned to a police station two days later and were lashed 10 times each, according to Hussein.

The women whipped earlier this month included some from animist and Christian south Sudan where the Muslim north's Islamic or sharia law does not apply.

Scores of people crammed into the courthouse to hear the ruling, many of them female supporters -- some of them also wearing trousers out of solidarity.

Some held up placards on the street outside. "A woman is not for flogging," read one in Arabic.

"We are here to support Lubna, because this treatment of women is arbitrary and not correct," said Zuhal Mohammed Elamin, a law professor in Khartoum. "Women should not be humiliated in this manner."

Police have also cracked down on another woman journalist, Amal Habbani, after she wrote an article condemning Hussein's treatment.

Habbani wrote an article for Ajrass Al-Horreya newspaper following the arrests entitled "Lubna, a case of subduing a woman's body."

"I am waiting for a decision," Habbani told AFP after she was charged with defaming police, a charge which can carry a fine of up to several hundred thousand dollars.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said the charge against Habbani stemmed from her claim that Hussein's arrest was "not about fashion but a political tactic to intimidate and terrorise opponents."

Unlike many other Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf, women have a prominent place in Sudanese public life. Nevertheless, human rights organisations say some of Sudan's laws discriminate against women.

In December 2007, British teacher Gillian Gibbons faced 40 lashes after being convicted of insulting religion by allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Mohammed.

Gibbons, 54 at the time, was eventually sentenced to 15 days in prison but was pardoned by Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir following the mediation of two Muslim members of Britain's upper house of parliament.

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