Two Sudan journalists in court, risk death sentence
By Khaled Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan has charged two journalists with trying to overthrow the government, a crime punishable by death, for publishing an article saying the impoverished east of Africa's largest country may secede.
Sudan's oil-producing south voted this month in a referendum on secession from the north, promised under a 2005 peace accord which ended decades of civil war. It now looks set to become independent on July 9.
Many in the north blame the split on Khartoum's failure to share power and wealth with marginalized areas.
The western Darfur region is in the throes of an eight-year insurgency and the east has the country's deepest levels of poverty despite hosting its only port and largest gold mines.
"The accused were practicing their rights to express their opinion freely as guaranteed under the constitution and the many charters of human rights which Sudan has signed," Mutasim al- Amir, one of the defense lawyers, told Reuters on Thursday as the journalists made their first court appearance in Khartoum.
The hearing was postponed as some witnesses were still in the eastern city of Port Sudan, where the accused were first arrested before being transferred to the capital.
Both journalists work for a weekly paper published in the east called Sout al-Bar'out, named after a religious leader.
Khartoum has brought eight charges against them, the most prominent being trying to overthrow the constitutional government, an offense punishable by death.
On January 9, the first day of voting in the south's referendum, the paper published an article saying the marginalization of the east could give rise to calls for secession there.
The editor-in-chief of the paper, Abu Eisha Kazim, and the author of the article, Abdel Gadir Bakash, were arrested the following day, they said.
(Additional report and writing by Opheera McDoom; Editing by Maria Golovnina)