Image: Lubna Hussein
Mohamed Nureldin Abdallh  /  Reuters file
Former journalist Lubna Hussein poses for a photograph at the cafe where she was arrested in Khartoum, on July 31. Hussein faces 40 lashes for wearing trousers in public.
updated 8/11/2009 7:17:30 PM ET 2009-08-11T23:17:30

A female Sudanese journalist on trial for wearing trousers in public said she was prevented from leaving the country Tuesday for a trip to Lebanon, where she was to take part in a televised talk-show about women's issues.

Lubna Hussein could receive 40 lashes if found guilty of violating Sudan's indecency law which follows a strict interpretation of Islam.

The 43-year-old, who has been released on bail during the hearings, has sought to draw international attention to her case and battle the law she described as un-Islamic and oppressive to women. Her trial resumes in September.

Hussein was among 13 women arrested July 3 in a raid by the public order police on a popular cafe in Khartoum. Ten of the women were fined and flogged two days later. But Hussein and two others decided to go to trial to challenge the charges in court.

Hussein also resigned from her job in the U.N.'s public information office in Khartoum, declining the immunity that went along with the job to challenge the law.

She was about to pay an exit fee Tuesday at the Khartoum airport for her trip to Lebanon, when airport security told her she was barred from traveling and was shown a ban signed by the public order police, which has raised the charges against her.

‘Wearing trousers is now a serious crime’
Travel bans are usually issued in major criminal cases when there is a risk of a defendant fleeing the country.

"It seems that wearing trousers is now a serious crime in Sudan," Hussein said later Tuesday.

She said she was to participate in a talk show hosted by the pan-Arab Al-Arabiya television network in Lebanon.

"If the intent is to prevent me from speaking or censor my words ... they (authorities) are then naive, because I can speak on the phone, through satellite, anytime," Hussein told The Associated Press.

Sudanese officials could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Hussein said her case is no longer about proving her innocence or avoiding flogging but that she wants to have the 1991 indecency laws scrapped.

Trousers are considered indecent clothing for women under the law. But Sudanese activists and lawyers say the law is implemented arbitrarily, and leaves the definition of "indecent acts" up to the implementing police officer.

Hussein's case has drawn condemnation from U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, who expressed deep concern about it and said that flogging is a violation of international human rights standards.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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