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Six Sudan activists charged with abducting rape victim

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Sun, 20 Mar 2011 17:53 GMT
Author: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2011. Click For Restrictions. http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
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* Six politicians, civil activists accused

* Rape victim says family pressured into making complaint

* Security deny rape, charge three journalists

KHARTOUM, March 20 (Reuters) - Six prominent Sudanese civil society and political activists said on Sunday they had been charged with kidnap after trying to help a woman who said she had been raped by security forces.

Safiya Eshaq told Reuters last month she had fled Khartoum to south Sudan's capital Juba in fear of her life after speaking out about being gang-raped by security men who abducted her from the streeet because of her role in an anti-government protest on Jan. 30.

Six prominent politicians and civil society activists visited Eshaq's family in Khartoum to express support for them but relatives later filed a police report accusing them of helping to abduct Eshaq.

The activists said the relatives did this under pressure from security forces, who have also charged three journalists who wrote about the case with defamation and publishing lies.

"Basically the charges against us amount to kidnapping," said Sara Nuqdullah, a senior member of the opposition Umma Party who said she was summoned on an arrest warrant on Saturday and released on bail ahead of trial.

Mariam al-Mahdi, also a member of the Umma Party, was summoned on Sunday on the same charges, Nuqdullah added.

Eshaq told Reuters from an undisclosed location on Sunday she was in constant contact with her family, they knew her movements and that they were being pressured by security to press the "conspiracy to abduct" charges.

"I have told them I want to continue with my original case (the rape complaint) and to drop these false (kidnap) charges but they are under constant pressure and surveillance from security," she said.

Rape is a taboo subject in the conservative Muslim society and is rarely reported as victims can be intimidated or even arrested for extra-marital sex. A source in security said Eshaq falsified her police and medical reports and denied any rape.

Another source in security said the charges were brought by the family and denied putting pressure on them.

Many of those arrested after protests this year have said they were beaten and tortured during detention. Sudanese youth had hoped to emulate popular uprisings in neighbouring Egypt and Libya but the movement failed to garner mass support.

On Monday the activists plan to protest again, hoping to gain momentum. Many in Sudan fear the deeply divided society and proliferation of weapons will turn any uprising into a bloodbath. (Reporting by Opheera McDoom; editing by Andrew Roche)

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