Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka with four other artists, have been jailed for two months. The artists were involved in an altercation in Khartoum in August, after authorities reportedly responded to noise complaints from neighbors during a theater rehearsal. Steven Markovitz, who produced both of Kuka’s films, decried what he described as “trumped-up charges” against the director, who was admitted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences earlier this year. “Hajooj has touched many with his friendship, wisdom, talent and bravery,” Markovitz said in a statement. “We call on the Sudanese government to release the artists immediately.” Toronto Film Festival artistic director Cameron Bailey tweeted his support, saying, “We need to make some noise about this.”
Hajooj is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences documentary branch and the award-winning filmmaker of Beats of the Antonov and AKasha. We call on the Sudanese government to release the artists immediately. The convicted artists are:
Duaa Tarig Mohamed Ahmed.
Abdel Rahman Mohamed Hamdan.
Ayman Khalaf Allah Mohamed Ahmed.
Ahmed Elsadig Ahmed Hammad.
Hajooj Mohamed Haj Omar
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Text to share with the relevant Sudan government authorities:
I am writing to demand the release of the five artists recently detained and sentenced for public annoyance in Sudan. Hajooj Mohamed Haj Omar Duaa Tarig Mohamed Ahmed, Abdel Rahman Mohamed Hamdan, Ayman Khalaf Allah Mohamed Ahmed and Ahmed Elsadig Ahmed Hammad represent the future of a free Sudan and should not be persecuted for being artists.The trial of the artists was handled in a biased and politicized manner. Although the charges were all related to the allegation that the artists were chanting in the jail cells where they were held, the proceedings gave platform to conservative citizens to besmirch and attack the artists for alleged discretions that were extraneous to the case. It was a clear message to the current government that the old Islamist regime still controls the judiciary and the law enforcement apparatuses. The return to arbitrary justice mechanisms in which the legal framework is used to control freedom of association and expression is a chilling reminder at what is at stake in Sudan’s transition.
I am concerned for the immediate well-being of the artists after they were sentenced to two months in prison, especially for Duaa Tarig who was previously assaulted in police custody and has been singled out based on her gender.These artists have spent the last two years creating art to support Sudan’s quest for freedom and democracy. They have created hundreds of murals and films in the public service, supported the Prime Minister’s office and Sudan National Television, and conducted hundreds of civic engagement workshops across Sudan through their work at the Civic Lab network.Artists are at the vanguard of positive change in Sudan, and played a critical in Sudan’s revolution. When they are not protected, no one is protected.
These actions by a corrupt security apparatus establish a chilling precedence that must be immediately addressed. In addition to releasing the five artists and the dropping of the six artists facing trial, I call on the civilian-led government to investigate the judges and police involved in this case, and fast track reform to the Bashir-era laws that unjustly criminalize civilians. It has also come to my attention that Hajooj Mohamed Haj Omar is currently being beaten in prison and partially shaved, I demand that this be stopped.