Six human rights activists in Sudan have been charged with espionage and terrorism, charges that could lead to death penalties. International agencies are calling for the charges to be dropped.
According to Freedom House, after 86 days in detention without charge, Khalaf-Allah Al-Afif Muktar, Mustafa Adam and Midhat Afifaddin Hamadan have been charged under the Criminal Act Article 50 (Undermining the Constitutional System), Article 51 (Waging War Against the State), Article 53 (Espionage) and Article 65 (Criminal and Terrorist Organizations). Arwa Al-Rabie, Imany-Leila Ray and Al-Hassan Kheiry, who had been released on bail, were also charged with these four crimes.
Adam and Hamadan have also been charged under Article 14 of the Information Crimes Law.
The six civil society activists are associated with Training and Human Development (TRACKs).
The charges are "preposterous and were brought against these individuals for exercising the fundamental right to free association," said Vukasin Petrovic, director for Freedom House Africa programmes.
"The government of Sudan should either drop these absurd charges or ensure a speedy and fair trial. It should allow observers to attend all proceedings and guarantee the defendants' right to receive visitors in prison."
TRACKs, a Khartoum-based organization, has been raided twice during the last two years by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services, which has confiscated the passports of staff members.
In April 2015 criminal charges-some carrying the death penalty-were brought against TRACKs Director Khalafalla Alafif Mukhtar and Adil Bakheit, a human rights defender and member of the Board of Directors for Sudanese Human Rights Monitor.
The United Nations has also urged the Sudanese authorities to drop the charges.
“The charges brought against them appear to be directly linked to their work in the defence of human rights, while exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, in a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“This sentence is likely to have a chilling effect among activists and human rights defenders in Sudan,” he added.
“The death penalty is an extreme form of punishment. lf used at all, it should only be imposed after a fair trial that respects the most stringent due process guarantees as stipulated in international human rights law,” the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, said in the news release. “I am seriously concerned that any trial of these six people would not uphold such principles.”
UN experts also voiced their concern at the increasing harassment and intimidation of key civil society members in the country and curbs to freedom of expression and association, which are also guaranteed under the country’s constitution.