Asim Omer remains in detention since May 2016

 

Asim Omer, born on March 2, 1994, is the name of a young man who surfaced strongly amidst the background of peaceful civil protesting in Sudan. Asim is facing criminal charges that could lead to the death penalty. Asim Omer was originally arrested in May 2016 following student demonstrations at the University of Khartoum.

A week after his arrest, Asim Omer was charged under article 130 of the Criminal Code (Capital Murder), under the pretext that he allegedly threw a burning device at a police vehicle during demonstrations held by the students of University of Khartoum protesting the selling of part of the University’s land and its subsequent relocation. That resulted, as stated in the affidavit, in the death of a police officer. The trial began ten months later.

On Wednesday August 2, 2017 people supporting Asim held their breath waiting for the verdict at the Khartoum North District Criminal court. The week before, Mr. Omer’s verdict had been postponed, as a new witness was to take the stand at the judge’s order. Hence, the defendant was remanded in custody, which dated back to May 2, 2016.

The young man, who is originally from Darfur and was living in Omdurman, grew up fervently concerned with wider human causes and national issues. As his sister Nada said “Asim was always concerned with truth and righteousness, adopted Sufism through adolescence, loved others and would happily engage in helping relatives and neighbors. He was involved in charity organizations as well. He also loved animals, once when his dog was killed by local authorities in a campaign to exterminate stray dogs, he became utterly depressed and wouldn’t eat for three days”.

Drilling in the wall…

Asim became active in politics; and as a freshman at the University of Bahri he joined the Independent Students Movement, which is affiliated with the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP) and has led protests against the oppression of the governing Sudanese regime. Once he led protests against the University amid canceling an order to exempt students from Darfur of registration fees and the president’s visit to the University; a move that resulted in him being detained and eventually expelled from the Faculty of Law during his third year. Asim fought back and won a reinstating ruling from the Supreme Court after suing the University. However, he didn’t go back to the University of Bahri, but instead registered for a diploma in business management at the University of Khartoum.

People close to Asim stated that he was a constant target by security services and the authorities, and had been subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention several times, as well as often being placed under surveillance. Despite these obstacles, Asim continued to stay engaged in his activism. On July 6, 2015, and in an unprecedented judicial overreach, he was sentenced to and received 20 lashes along with two of his colleagues of the Sudanese Congress Party after being arrested at Sabrin market, Omdurman during a public speech demanding the release of detained political opponents and urging people to boycott the national elections. This judicial ruling and the use of corporal punishment for political activists is considered the first of its kind in Sudan.

The course of the trial

On the sentencing day, rather than announcing the verdict, the judge summoned a new witness, a police officer who was reportedly an eyewitness to the attack at University of Khartoum and identified Asim.. A request to interrogate the same witness by the defense team was rejected.  The spokesperson of the Sudanese Congress Party and a member of the defense team, lawyer Mohammed Arabi, insisted that the defendant isn’t guilty and that the whole trial is a political tactic to smear the party and portray it as a violent and criminal organisation. Mr. Arabi added that since the day the charges against Asim were announced, the defense has not been able to gain any information about the individual who was reportedly killed, such as where he lived and the exact details and cause of his death. Only during the trial was the defense informed that the police officer killed was named Hussam and that he was a member of the Emergency Police Unit. His father testified at the trial. Conflicting statements were made by witnesses and the police affidavit on the date and cause of death of Hussam.

Additionally, procedural flaws were pointed out by the defense, as no forensic expert testified in court about the autopsy findings, elucidating the the circumstances of death and criminal intent. Also the testimony of a representative of the criminal laboratories was not heard. The criminal laboratory is the official body that examined the car that Asim reportedly threw the explosive at and the weapons used.

Mr. Arabi concluded that “in spite of what the verdict will be, this case is representative of a legal campaign by Sudan’s judiciary that reflects the wretchedness and disrespectful ways of treating both the deceased and the defendant”.