Sudanese Christian Woman Flogged Instead of Being Stoned

Sentence for Adultery Is Commuted Due to International Pressure

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WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 28, 2002 ( A Sudanese Christian woman accused of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning was instead given 75 lashes and then released, human-rights activists told United Press International.

The U.S.- and Germany-based activists said the punishment was cruel, but they noted the reduction of her sentence proved that Sudan did heed international pressure.

It was unclear whether 18-year-old Abok Alfa Akok was still pregnant when she was flogged Feb. 18, or had already given birth to the child conceived out of the allegedly adulterous liaison.

Albrecht Hofheinz, a scholar of Islamic studies who lives in Berlin, said that according to his sources, Akok had her baby in prison while awaiting the outcome of her appeal.

But Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College in Massachusetts and one of America´s foremost experts on Sudanese human-rights abuses, disagreed. «To my knowledge she was still pregnant,» he told UPI.

The same court that sentenced Akok to death acquitted the child´s father. Akok said he had raped her.

Under Shariah, or Islamic law, women should not be flogged while pregnant or recovering from childbirth. Neither may they be scourged in public, according to Hofheinz, who was a Red Cross representative in Sudan.

Faith O´Donnell, Sudan specialist of the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy, elaborated that during the flogging a medical specialist is present to make sure that the offender does not die.

A criminal court — not a religious tribunal — in Nyala in Southern Darfur, one of Sudan´s predominantly Christian states, sentenced Akok to death on Dec. 8, the Sudanese Victims of Torture Group reported.

The trial was conducted in Arabic, a language the Dinka tribeswoman did not master. There was no interpreter present.

The case went to an appeals court in Khartoum, which overturned the sentence. It ordered the lower court to give the defendant a «rebuke» sentence, according to the organization. The Sudanese Embassy in Washington did not return a call to UPI for comment.

Human-rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, had appealed to Sudanese President Omar Bashir to intervene on behalf of the young woman.

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