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The New Arab Staff

Detained Sudanese artists released after global uproar

The artists were charged with 'public annoyance and disruption of public safety' [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 October, 2020

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The artists, including award-winning filmmaker Hajooj Kuka, were arrested over a 'mixed-gender' theatre workshop.
Several artists detained by Sudanese authorities over a "mixed-gender" theatre workshop have been released after their cases attracted international outrage.

Sudan's Court of Appeal ruled to annul the sentences of the 11 artists arrested in August.

Five members of the group were released following court's decision last week, while another six were freed on Tuesday, Radio Dabanga reported.

All 11 were initially handed down two-month prison sentences on charges of "public annoyance and disruption of public safety", as well as fines of 5,000 Sudanese pounds ($90) each.

Among the artists arrested by authorities in August was Hajook Kuka, a prize-winning filmmaker whose detention attracted international attention.

In August, Kuka said on Twitter that he and others were "attacked during a theater workshop in #khartoum by islamists instigators. The police stood by the attackers and arrested us".

Defence lawyer Othman al-Basri told AFP that the assailants had accused Kuka and his colleagues of "holding mixed-gender workshops". 

Last month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences  - the body responsible for the Oscars - said it "supports the efforts to release Academy member Hajooj Kuka" and those jailed with him.


The International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR) and its founding institutions, the European Film Academy, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, and International Film Festival Rotterdam, also called for the group's release alongside the Berlin and Toronto film festivals.

Kuka's films "Beats of the Antonov" and "aKasha" have played at the Toronto and Venice international film festivals. He is also the co-founder of Sudanese art collective The Refugee Club.

"The big thing that we hope will come through this also is getting rid of all these rules that could be used against us, and also, finding ways to protect first art and artists," Kuka told VICE News following his release.

"Right now, the remainders of the old regime still use these laws that exist, and [there are] folks within the police, the judiciary, the prosecution office, that still believe in the old ways," he said.

"I hope, in the future, people will also stand in solidarity when such things happen," Kuka added.

Agencies contributed to this report

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