A Sudanese court on Tuesday overturned flogging sentences for nine women for taking part in protests against President Omar al-Bashir’s three-decade rule, a defense lawyer said.
The emergency appeals court scrapped a verdict issued on Saturday by a lower court which had sentenced the women to 20 lashes and a month in prison each.
“The appeals court canceled the punishment of flogging the women,” defense lawyer Enaam Atieg told AFP.
The court ruled that the women had already spent enough time in jail and ordered their immediate release, she said.
They were arrested on Thursday for participating in a “banned demonstration” earlier in the day in the capital’s eastern district of Burri, a site of regular protests against Bashir’s rule.
The authorities have set up special emergency courts to investigate violations of a nationwide state of emergency, imposed by Bashir on February 22 after an initial crackdown failed to suppress the protests.
On Monday, Sudanese parliament approved a six-month state of emergency across the country instead of a year as originally declared by Bashir.
The president also banned all unauthorized rallies and gave sweeping powers to security forces for carrying out raids and searches.
Bashir has dissolved the federal and provincial governments, and appointed 16 army officers and two security officers from the National Intelligence and Security Service as governors of the country’s 18 provinces.
Protests initially broke out in Sudan on December 19 following a government decision to triple the price of bread.
They quickly mushroomed into nationwide demonstrations against Bashir’s rule, with crowds calling on the 75-year-old leader to step down.
Bashir himself has acknowledged that the protests were led by youths, the majority of them women.
Officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence so far, while Human Rights Watch says at least 51 people have been killed including children and medics.