Sudan frees one pastor, plans to prosecute two others

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Just weeks after releasing one pastor, Sudanese officials may prosecute two others for crimes that could carry the death penalty. One of the pastors has been detained illegally without charges since December. Officials rearrested another on May 24.

According to Middle East Concern, Sudanese Intelligence officials (NISS) arrested Pastor Kuwa Shamal of the Sudan Church of Christ (SCC) again this month. Officials first arrested Shamal and two other pastors in December. They detained him then for three days before releasing him. He still hasn’t been formally charged.

NISS also arrested Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour in December. He was imprisoned and denied family or legal visits until late May. His attorney, Mohaned Mustafa, told International Christian Concern (ICC) that despite a lack of official charges, he expects the government will try Taour for espionage and crimes against the state.

Radio Dabanga reported Taour, the outgoing secretary general of the SCC, was referred to State Security Prosecution in Khartoum.

“We believe there is no case,” Mustafa told ICC, adding he thinks the court will try Taour in June. Threatening Christians with trumped up criminal charges is common in Sudan and one of the reasons the Islamic nation is one of the worst places for Christians. It ranked eighth on the latest World Watch List from Open Doors.

Both Shamal and Taour are from the Nuba people, a mostly Christian group “resisting ethnic and religious hegemony from Khartoum’s Arab Islamist regime,” according to World Watch Monitor.

“Since the secession of South Sudan [in July 2011], Khartoum has intensified harassment of Christians, including arrests of church leaders and active church members,” Kamal Fahmi of advocacy website, ‘Set My People Free’ told WWM. “Foreign Christian workers have been deported. Sudan has stopped the import of Christian  literature and Scriptures, while confiscating most of the Christian literature  in the  country and  closing  the only Christian  bookshop in the  capital, Khartoum.”

News that Shamal and Taour would face prosecution followed the good news that authorities released Telahoon “Telal” Nogossi Kassa Rata on May 10. Sudan kept Rata in mostly solitary confinement for nearly five months, allowing only two brief family visits. Officials also arrested him in December, around the same time as the others.

“We are happy and thankful to God for the release of Telal,” formerly imprisoned pastor Peter Yen Reith told ICC. “His family, the churches in Sudan, and the entire body of Christ is rejoicing.”

Officials also Reith and another pastor, Yat Michael Ruot, accusing them of several serious charges that were dropped in August. Taour’s lawyer defended Ruot and Reith as well as Meriam Ibrahim, who was accused of “apostasy” and “adultery” for marrying a Christian man although her absent father was Muslim. International attention and pressure eventually led to her release.

WWM also reported that authorities alternately arrested, released, and required daily reporting from several other Christian leaders, including Church of Christ and Baptist ministers.

In February, Sudanese NGO The Human Rights and Development Organization (HUDO) Centre reported Taour and Rata’s whereabouts remained unknown.

“Their families and church authority were prevented from visiting them. Both are at risk of torture,” HUDO warned, according to Radio Dabanga.

— by Julia A. Seymour | WNS

 

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