Khartoum, Sudan -- A YouTube video of Sudanese police officers laughing as they publicly flogged a pleading, fleeing woman has sparked outrage, prompting dozens of demonstrators to protest Tuesday outside the Justice Ministry in downtown Khartoum, authorities said.
The demonstrators belonged to the Women Initiative Against Violence, and 52 of them -- 46 women and six men -- were arrested for unlawful assembly, the Khartoum State Police Force said in a statement.
All 52 persons were released under bail, police said.
The two-minute video has caused an uproar in Sudan, and columnists in pro-government newspapers have called for an immediate investigation. Much criticism focuses on how the flogging was carried out.
The footage shows an unidentified woman in a head scarf and black abaya, or Islamic robe, and she's ordered in Arabic to sit down in a parking lot and take her punishment so that the officers "can go home."
The flogging is initially to her back, in keeping with the Sharia code, or Islamic law, governing flogging, but when she turns to ask for mercy, the whipping continues to the front part of her body, including her face, hands and legs.
A shocked passerby can be heard exclaiming, "There is no authority but God's" after witnessing the woman's punishment. One of the officers responds: "This is a fundamental principle. Let him whip her."
At another point, an officer laughs when he realizes he is being filmed and asks the person behind the camera to film spectators whom he says are laughing with him. That officer then joins the flogging, and the woman is whipped by the two male officers.
Sudan's deputy police chief, Adel Al-Agib, initially attempted to downplay the incident and told the government's official news agency that the video was circulated to "damage the image of the country."
In a recent meeting organized by the Sudanese Journalism and Publications Council, Al-Agib said the video was recorded in July 2009, but was recently released "to coincide with International Human Rights Day in order to bring on more international pressure on the country," he said.
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