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INTERVIEW - Sudanese woman in trouser case defies travel ban
PARIS (Reuters) - A Sudanese woman who was punished for breaching decency laws by wearing trousers has defied a travel ban by coming to France to publicise her new book.
Lubna Hussein was arrested in July and convicted of indecency charges in a case that made headlines worldwide. She was ordered to pay a fine or face a month in jail, but was spared an initial penalty of 40 whip lashes.
"I was banned from leaving Sudan by air, by land or by sea and I succeeded in getting out ... so I am sure this book will surface in Sudan," she told Reuters in an interview.
Her book, "Forty lashes for a pair of trousers", has come out in French and will be translated into English, Arabic, Swahili and other languages.
It details Hussein's arrest in July with 12 other women for wearing "indecent" clothing, a pair of green slacks.
It also describes her struggle to find a job as a female journalist and upbringing in Sudan before aspects of sharia law were incorporated into the penal code in 1983.
"This law and practice deform the image of Islam. No one has been able to find a text in the Koran which justifies flogging a woman for the way she is dressed," said Hussein, wearing mauve trousers and jacket.
Thousands of women have been convicted of offences similar to Hussein's and sentenced to beatings in recent years under Sudan's Islamic decency regulations.
Hussein's supporters say she is the first to defy such treatment.
Many activists complain Sudan's decency regulations are vague and give individual police officers undue latitude to determine what is acceptable clothing for women.
Hussein, a former reporter who was working for the United Nations at the time of her arrest, said she resigned from her job to give up any legal immunity so she could continue with the case, prove her innocence and challenge the decency law.
"Thousands of women have gone to prison and been taken to court for the way they are dressed ... and have had no way of defending themselves," Hussein said.
The authorities changed her punishment from 40 lashes to a $200 fine, which Hussein refused to pay, preferring to go to jail instead as a means of challenging the law's legitimacy.
She was freed in September after the country's journalists' union said it had paid the fine on her behalf.
Hussein said the group that paid her fine had close ties to the Sudanese government, which wanted to end the case quietly.
She said she planned to pursue her campaign through the courts and would ultimately go to the African Court of Justice if necessary.
"I have received a lot of threats. Some were outright death threats. But I have faith, and I believe that I will die the day that I am meant to die," she said.
(Editing by Dominic Evans)
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