Sudan

Sudan says charges against aid workers still stand

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KHARTOUM, June 15 (Reuters) - The Sudanese authorities have not dropped charges against two aid officials involved in the drafting of a report on rapes in the country's Darfur region, a judicial official said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, U.N. envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk said he expected that the charges of spying, publishing false information and destabilising Sudanese society against the men from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) would be withdrawn later that day.

But senior justice ministry official Abdel Daim Zumrawi told Reuters on Wednesday: " ... the criminal charges against MSF still stand, they have not been dropped."

Vincent Hoedt and his British superior Paul Foreman were arrested last month over the report which was published in March. The two men, who work for the Dutch branch of the medical charity, were later released on bail.

Asked if he expected the charges to be dropped shortly, Zumrawi said: "That depends on the behaviour of the organisation." He did not give further details.

Sudan's attorney-general, Mohamed Farid, has said the MSF report, which details 500 rapes over 4-1/2 months in Darfur, is false. Farid said the maximum penalty for the crimes was three years in jail and permanent expulsion from the country.

The MSF report contained anonymous accounts by victims of their ordeals, including being held and raped repeatedly for several days, beaten and even arrested.

The report, which received full backing from the United Nations, said more than 80 percent of the victims identified their attackers as militiamen or soldiers.

Two rebel groups launched an uprising in Darfur in early 2003. Tens of thousands have been killed and 2 million have fled their homes since the fighting started.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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