Noura Hussein has been spared from the death penalty and found not guilty of premeditated murder by an appeals court in Sudan. However, while her death sentence was quashed, Noura was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison.
19-year-old Hussein was a victim of forced marriage when she was just 16. She had been sentenced to death by hanging after stabbing her new husband, ultimately killing him, when he tried to rape her.
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Hussein’s supporters said they were ‘elated’ by the news. A global outcry sparked the #JusticeforNoura campaign, with petitions garnering more than a million signatures around the world to save Noura from the death penalty. High-profile figures including model Naomi Campbell, actors Mira Sorvino, Emma Watson, and Rose McGowan, and Julia Gillard, the former Australian prime minister even voiced their support.
The Guardian reports that Noura’s case sets an important precedent for victims of forced marriage:
The case has underlined the issue of forced marriage, including of minors, and women’s rights in the Sudanese courts system.
CNN reported that her family now been ordered to pay 337,000 Sudanese pounds ($18,700) in “blood money” to the relatives of her victim.
According to her supporters Hussein had been with her husband for six days when he raped her with the assistance of his brother, another relative, and a witness, who held her down.
When he attempted to rape her again the following day, she stabbed him before fleeing to her own parents’ house, who handed her over to police.
In a statement, Hussein said she had picked up the knife with the idea of killing herself. Under Sudanese law, the repeated sexual assaults by her husband were not considered rape because Hussein was his wife.
One of Noura’s lawyers, Ahmer Sibair, explained that “Marrying girls and women without their consent is common in Sudan, and it causes so many problems. They marry a girl as a child and without her consent, and so many of them lost their chances to be educated.”
Noura’s legal team was repeatedly harassed according to activists, with her lead lawyer Adil Mohamed Al-Imam being barred from holding a news conference by state security authorities.
While Noura was spared from death, Judy Gitau, a human rights lawyer for activist group Equality Now, says that the manslaughter charge is unjustifiable.
“We are very pleased that Noura has won the court appeal against her death sentence, and we celebrate it as a positive step for both her, and women and girls generally in Sudan. However, sentencing her to five years in prison and a fine for defending herself against her rapist is still not acceptable and we are looking at next steps to support her.”
Last month Noura told The Guardian from her prison cell that she hoped to continue her studies if she was pardoned.
“When I get out of here, I want to study law to defend other oppressed people,” she said.
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