SUDAN: Tracks center on trial AKA the Red Label Trial

As usual, they kept us waiting inside the very warm court room on the first floor of the Central Khartoum Court building in Khartoum three. Just before 12:30, the three defendants who are currently detained at Al-Huda prison in Omdurman were brought into the courthouse. We clapped as they passed us through with hopeful smiles on their faces. Mustafa Adam, the victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time (he has no relation to TRACKs other than the fact that he was visiting the center during the February 2016 raid), was shackled to the director of TRACKs center, Khalfallah Al-Afif.

Midhat Afifi, my friend and an affiliate with the center was shackled to a police officer. They were taken to the make-shift cage to join the three other defendants, Arwa Al-Rabie, Al-Hassan Kheiry and Imany-Leila Rae, a Cameeronian student and intern at TRACKs center. They unshackled them after they sat down and they were able to wave at us …we waved back…

A police officer made his way to the right-hand side of the courtroom and told us to not clap again or else we would not be allowed to attend next time. This was after I asked my friend if we should throw one big (zagrouta) as they walk in…. we figured clapping is more appropriate.

We sat and waited for the judge as he came in through the backdoor. We were a mix of family members, journalists and lawyers as well as security officers scattered throughout the crowd, looking awkward as hell with their ear-phones. When we walked in, the screen was already set-up and the projector was also set-up, supported by what was formally a biscuit box. Police officers began walking into the court-room with the “evidence”: about two laptop bags, one backpack and a number of folders.

The judge walked in, late as usual, and the trial began.

The defendants were represented by 8–10 lawyers and on the other hand, stood the prosecutor aided by an investigator (both with almost a personal vendetta against the center and its staff and affiliates), a technician whose job is to operate the laptops showing the “evidence”. Six people sat behind the prosecutor, it was unclear who they are or what purpose they served during the trial.

The judge asked the prosecutor to begin showing the evidence and the prosecutor said that they will show evidence incriminating Khalfallah Al-Afif and Afifi. The prosecutor had the evidence on a laptop and this sent the lawyer into a fury. After all, the lawyer said that the evidence was initially on CDs and he needs to make sure that they are presenting what was on the CDs.

The evidence was presented…honestly I wish I could just stop here! If we had known that the trial was going to go down this way, we would’ve brought in some snacks to enjoy the films and videos that were screened!

They prosecutor began by screening an episode on the public order police from a show called Al-Bagla and Al-Abreeq by Dr. Al-Baqir Al-Afif, the director of Al-Khatim Adlan Center for Enlightment and Human Development (KACE) in Uganda. KACE was one of Sudan’s strongest civil society organizations until the security forces shut it down in December 2012. Since then, the organization has operated in Kampala and is pursuing legal action at the administrative court to re-operate in Khartoum (the case has proven to be mysterious, the case file disappeared from the court and the judge claimed that he could not find it at one point leading to a temporary deadlock)

The episode was spot-on. It featured two viral videos of Sudanese women getting lashed by the public order police ( a police force brought to force by the current regime as part of their civilizational project in an attempt to socially engineer Sudanese people into one conformist identity that is imposed on them by the government) in their mass efforts to criminalize the personal behavior, dress-code and attitudes of Sudanese men and women.

Al-Afif argued in the video that the public order system does not accept Sudanese culture and seeks to impose an Arabian peninsula culture on a society and this way, it is contributing to the demise of very unique Sudanese values.

Next on the film club schedule was beats of the Antonov. BEATs is a multi- award-winning film by Hajooj Kuka, a sudanese film-maker and war journalist ( I interviewed him here). It is a fascinating portrayal of how people are using their indigenous cultural practices especially music to navigate the conflict situation in the two areas, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan or what is now called the new “south” of Sudan.

The only speaker in the film not based inside the two areas is Dr Al-Baqir Al-Afif, who is the brother of the director of TRACKs and this led the investigator to emphasize his initial point : that Dr Al-Afif is the de-facto “underground” director of TRACKs center and the center acts as a front for KACE.

It is evident that some employees who used to work at KACE are now working at TRACKs, but this does not prove that they are one entity or proves that TRACKs has committed crimes against the state. Like one defendant told me “ we are working at TRACKs and not KACE, but I don’t understand, they make it seem as if KACE is the state of Israel!”

Then, we were shown a film called “Darfur” by a German film-maker. The film is about western journalists and film-makers as they are trying to document the tragedy in Darfur as inflicted by the janjaweed. The film was painful to watch because of how unreal it was to me! It was such a cliche story where the western character becomes the center of the story as they are trying to save the poor Africans from their endless conflicts. The Arabic was not from anywhere in Sudan and it was amazing how a young woman from a little village in Darfur in the film somehow speaks English …..and the judge in Khartoum handling this case does not speak English! He kept asking the investigator for subtitles or translation and this was not provided and the screening went ahead…it was very awkward for us to watch the film knowing that the judge and possibly the prosecutor and investigator do not fully understand the content of the film.

Once again, the investigator used this horrible film and said that TRACKs is screening this “fabricated” material to its constituencies. Another Sudanese film on student violence was also screened and again, it has nothing to do with TRACKs. I honestly do not understand how films you have on your laptop that you have not produced can be used as evidence against you by a state crimes prosecutor! One of the articles the defendants face is waging war against the state and this means that you start an actual militia and this militia engages in armed conflicts with the regime. How can you equate films on Sudan regardless of their topic to running a militia and taking part in an armed struggle?

Throughout the trial, the investigator kept showing personal pictures of Afifi in a very disrespectful way. His privacy was totally invaded as he screened pictures of Afifi with his friends and with some of his female friends.

One picture gained a lot of prominence during the trial. In it, there was a bottle of “Red Label whiskey” and behind the bottle, you could see the box. In front of the bottle, there are two glasses. This picture popped up a few times and most of the time, they kept it there for a few minutes before moving on to the next one.

The judge asked: what is this?

The investigator and prosecutor gladly answered that this is alcohol

The judge said that he does not know alcohol and they should read the name for him.

They could not read it, it was read as “ Red Bull”…an energy drink.

The next picture was of Afifi and one of his friends, they are both staring at the camera with cigarettes between their lips and they look like they are toasting the camera ( maybe one of them declared: if you don’t stare at the camera when we are toasting, we will get 90 years of NCP rule!! ). It is a personal picture, outside the office and was completely irrelevant to the charges they are facing. You can not wage war against the state with a bottle!

When the second picture was shown, the prosecutor asked : I want to know what they are doing in this picture!

Was he trying to get the defendant to come forward and say, I was drinking with a friend?

We were confused. They were not facing public order charges, they are facing crimes against the state. You want to lash them when they are facing…the death penalty.

The picture was yet another attempt to discredit the civil society. To tell those inside the court-room and to tell the journalists in the courtroom, here is the Sudanese civil society! They are all about pornography and alcohol….imagine what kind of society they want to lead?

Afifi kept laughing at the pictures, you can not help but laugh at such an absurd situation!

I did not laugh until I walked out of the courtroom. I know one thing for sure, I want to continue attending this roller coaster trial!

You don’t understand this? Read my former post @https://medium.com/@ReemWrites/sudan-the-government-uses-pornography-to-discredit-civil-society-884a2a57c361#.lbu0t0185

‏‏‏‏‏Sudanese freelance journalist, writer, blogger and researcher.

‏‏‏‏‏Sudanese freelance journalist, writer, blogger and researcher.