'Indecent' trousers case against woman delayed

A Sudanese woman facing the lash for wearing trousers in public will have to wait another month to hear her fate, a judge decided today.

Meanwhile police outside the court in Khartoum clubbed and fired tear gas at female supporters of Lubna Hussein, who is accused of dressing indecently against the country's strict Islamic code.

Ms Hussein was among 13 women arrested last month in a police raid on a cafe.

Ten of the women were flogged at a police station two days later and fined about £80. But Ms Hussein and two others decided to go on trial.

Today the judge at Khartoum Criminal Court adjourned the case for a month to seek clarification from Sudan's foreign ministry.

When arrested journalist Ms Hussein was working for the media department of the UN Mission in Sudan, which gives her immunity from prosecution.

She submitted her resignation after her trial began last week because she wanted the case to go ahead so she could challenge the dress code law.

Defence lawyer Jalal al-Sayed said today the judge wanted to know whether Ms Hussein still has immunity because her superiors have not yet accepted the resignation.

Outside police moved in swiftly and dispersed about 50 protesters, mostly women, who were supporting Ms Hussein, some wearing trousers in solidarity with her.

Trousers are considered indecent under the strict interpretation of Islamic law, adopted by Sudan's Islamic regime which came to power after a coup led by President Omar al-Bashir in 1989. But activists and lawyers say the implementation of the law is arbitrary.

"We are here to protest against this law that oppresses women and debases them," said one of the protesters, Amal Habani, a female columnist for the daily Ajraa Al Hurria, or Bells of Freedom in Arabic.