Sudanese models spared whip but fined for 'indecency'
KHARTOUM — A Sudanese court on Wednesday convicted eight models who took part in a mixed-gender fashion show with "indecency" and ordered them to pay a fine but spared them a flogging sentence.
The ruling was handed down against seven men and a woman by Khartoum criminal court Judge Sadig Abakar Adam, who ordered them to pay a fine of 200 pounds (66 dollars, 50 euros).
Under Sudanese law, anyone found guilty of "indecency" or convicted of wearing clothes that are deemed indecent can be fined 200 pounds and sentenced to 40 lashes.
The law forbidding "indecent clothing" was imposed in 1991, two years after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir seized power in a coup backed by Islamists.
It was brought under the spotlight last year when a court ordered a female journalist, Lubna Ahmed Hussein, to be flogged for wearing "indecent trousers." That sentence was commuted to a fine after a public outcry.
"The judge said that what happened is against the law and the traditions of the Sudanese people, so he made the punishment a fine," defence lawyer Adam Bakr Hassab told AFP after the verdict was issued.
"It is not correct. But now it is a reality, it became a decision. There is no way to avoid this punishment. We will pay the fine and do our appeal later," he said, speaking in English.
Those convicted on Wednesday had been among more than two dozen people arrested in Khartoum in June as as they emerged from the capital's first ever mixed-gender fashion show.
"Different things happened that night -- modelling, dancing, singing. Even having men and women at the same place is considered criminal," the lawyer said.
The fashion show was staged at a popular Khartoum club in front of families and friends of the models.
At the time, male models donned Western outfits, parading with their shirts unbuttoned, while their female counterparts showed off classical party clothes.
"There are some rights we have to protect (and) if we keep silent it means this will be a precedent, and then other people will be punished," the lawyer said.
"So we have to appeal to see what the higher court says. It will be a precedent or it will be cancelled."
Khartoum and the rest of Sudan's north is governed by Islamic law.