Sudanese court on Monday fined a Christian woman 500 pounds (SDG) for wearing what it described as “indecent dress” inside the courtroom.
According to the judge ruling, she would be imprisoned for one month if she failed to pay the fine.
The woman was among a group of 12 Christian women detained last week by the public order police for wearing what was deemed “immoral dress” while they were leaving a service at the El Izba Baptist Church in Khartoum.
The ruling came abruptly when the judge, who was trying the case of the 12 women, asked the first defence witness – the Church pastor – whether the woman dress during the trial was showing off her arms.
But the defence lawyer Osman Mubarak interfered and told the judge that the court is trying the woman in a separate charge, asking him to file another charge if he sees otherwise.
The judge swiftly filed another charge against the woman and then convicted her under article (152) of the penal code “indecent and immoral acts” and ordered her to pay a 500 pounds fine or be imprisoned for one month in case of failure to pay.
The defence lawyer called for closing the defence case after the court listened to three witnesses and asked for determining a court session to deposit the final pleadings.
The first defence witness and pastor of the El Izba Baptist Church, Felmon Hassan, pointed that Christianity doesn’t impose certain dress codes on men or women, saying however the clothing should be decent.
He stressed that the attire of the first defendant is considered normal dress and is accepted by Christianity, noting that women’s clothing inside the Church vary according to the denomination and individual liberty.
The second defence witness, Zaineb Badr el-Din, said the attire of the first defendant is considered normal according to the customs of the Khartoum state.
While the third defence witness, Hala Abdallah, also said the dress of the first defendant is normal and not objectionable at all.
Sudan’s constitution states that the immoral dress article does not apply to Christians, since they are not expected to follow Shariah law.
Several human rights organizations criticized article 152 of the Sudanese penal code saying it is only arbitrarily applied and is also very broad and not well defined.
They also say it gives excessive powers to police to arrest anybody without committing any crime