Second aid worker arrested over rape report

KHARTOUM (Reuters) — Sudan arrested a second aid worker from the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) aid agency on Tuesday over a report on hundreds of rapes in the troubled Darfur region, the agency said.
Vince Hoedt, Darfur coordinator for MSF Holland, said he was under arrest and police were escorting him to Khartoum. It was not clear if he was charged with the same offences as the country director who was arrested and released on bail on Monday.

“I have been officially arrested but there are no official charges as yet,” he told Reuters from Darfur. He was at the airport waiting to be transported to Khartoum, where he would meet with the authorities.

An MSF spokesman in the Netherlands told Reuters Hoedt saw his arrest warrant but could not read it because it was in Arabic.

Sudan arrested and later released on bail the country head of MSF Holland, Paul Foreman, who returned to meet authorities on Tuesday. MSF said in a statement the charges against him were spying, publishing false reports and undermining Sudanese society.

The attorney-general told Reuters on Tuesday the maximum penalty for the charges was three years in prison and then permanent expulsion from the country.

MSF Holland published a report in March detailing about 500 cases of rape over a period of 4 1/2 months in Darfur, where a rebellion has raged for more than 2 years.

The violence has killed tens of thousands and forced more than 2 million from their homes.

The report contained anonymous accounts by victims of their ordeals, including being held and raped repeatedly for several days, beaten and even arrested.

Pregnancy out of wedlock is illegal in Sudan, where Islamic sharia law is in force.

Rights group Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Tuesday the Sudanese government should be arresting war criminals in Darfur, not aid workers.

“This attack on the bearer of bad news is another assault on free speech,” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director for Human Rights Watch. “There is no conceivable security or military reason for preventing publication of this kind of public health information.”

“This is a perfect illustration of how far the Sudanese government is prepared to go to silence criticism and deny its own responsibility for massive atrocities in Darfur.”

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