Sudan's President indicted – UN in panic about 25,000 staff on ground – interesting blog report from UN about triumphalist press conferences

The President of Sudan has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity — but not on charges of genocide.

The Arab League will meet at ministerial level to discuss the implications etc.

The UN is in a panic, worried about its 25,000 staff on the ground that it may have to evacuate.

Medecins Sans Frontiers announced on Wednesday that it was pulling its staff out. Later, the Sudanese government gave orders to a number of other human rights and humanitarian aid organizations to leave immediately.
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"Our eyes have the right to shed tears…"

A Sudanese journalist working for Al-Jazeera Television was released from Guantanamo prison camp yesterday after six years of detention and sixteen months on a hunger strike. He was never charged with any crime.

Upon his arrival in Sudan, he was carried off the plane on a stretcher, and taken straight to the hospital.

AP quoted him as telling Al-Jazeera from his hospital bed: “Thank God … for being free again … Our eyes have the right to shed tears after we have spent all those years in prison. … But our joy is not going to be complete until our brothers in Guantanamo Bay are freed … Some of our brothers live without clothing” .

AP reported that “Al-Haj was detained in December 2001 by Pakistani authorities as he tried to enter Afghanistan to cover the U.S.-led invasion. He was turned over to the U.S. military and taken in January 2002 to Guantanamo Bay, where the United States holds some 275 men suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban, most of them without charges. Reprieve, the British human rights group that represents 35 Guantanamo prisoners including al-Haj, said Pakistani forces apparently seized al-Haj at the behest of the U.S. authorities who suspected he had interviewed Osama bin Laden. But that ‘supposed intelligence’ turned out to be false, Reprieve said in a news release … Attorney Zachary Katznelson of Reprieve, who met al-Haj at Guantanamo on April 11, said … ‘Sami is a poster child for everything that is wrong about Guantanamo Bay: No charges, no trial, constantly shifting allegations, brutal treatment, no visits with family, not even a phone call home … Sami was never alleged to have hurt a soul, and was never proven to have committed any crimes. Yet, he had fewer rights than convicted mass murderers or rapists. What has happened to American justice?’ ”

The AP story added that “Al-Haj was never prosecuted at Guantanamo so the U.S did not make public its full allegations against him. But in a hearing that determined that he was an enemy combatant, U.S. officials alleged that in the 1990s, al-Haj was an executive assistant at a Qatar-based beverage company that provided support to Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya. The U.S. claimed he also traveled to Azerbaijan at least eight times to carry money on behalf of his employer to the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a now defunct charity that U.S. authorities say funded militant groups. The officials said during this period that he met Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a senior lieutenant to Osama bin Laden who was arrested in Germany in 1998 and extradited to the United States. Officials did not provide details”.

AP also said that “The military alleged he was a courier for a militant Muslim organization, an allegation his lawyers denied. Al-Haj said he believed he was arrested because of U.S. hostility toward Al-Jazeera and because the media was reporting on U.S. rights violations in Afghanistan”.

The AP story can be read in full here .

She came to the Sudan … and cashed her salary in dollars

This teacher could have received 40 lashes, but was sentenced instead to 15 days in jail — while demonstrators are calling for her execution. Her crime? Officially, that she allowed her students to name a class teddy bear “Muhammad”. Scholars can debate whether this is in any way an offense against Islam (though I am amazed that it could be thought so). But the real cause for grievance may be rather more base: “A Muslim cleric at Khartoum’s main Martyrs Mosque denounced Gibbons during one sermon, saying she intentionally insulted Islam. He did not call for protests, however. ‘Imprisoning this lady does not satisfy the thirst of Muslims in Sudan. But we welcome imprisonment and expulsion’, the cleric, Abdul-Jalil Nazeer al-Karouri, a well-known hard-liner, told worshippers. ‘This an arrogant woman who came to our country, cashing her salary in dollars, teaching our children hatred of our Prophet Muhammad’, he said”. The report on the demonstrations in Sudan are here.


Here are some excerpts from remarks made by British Muslims — of a decidedly different tone — included in an Associated Press “Questions and Answers” file on the “teddy bear controversy”: “Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, who chairs the interfaith council of the Muslim Council of Britain, says the Sudanese trial was more political than religious. Gibbons did make a mistake, he says, but it was an innocent one. A Muslim teacher would not have named a teddy bear Muhammad because ‘they know the score with the name’, Mogra said, adding that such stuffed toys were largely alien to Sudanese culture. ‘In Britain, there are hardly any children who grew up without a teddy bear’, Mogra said. In the Sudanese culture, the bear is not a cuddly thing. It is seen as vicious, ferocious animal, and when you use the name Muhammad and attach it to a ferocious animal, there is scope there for it to cause (suspicion)’.” The AP Q and A file is posted here.