The case of the two Christian Pastors imprisoned in Sudan for their Christian faith has taken yet another dark turn. As their trial continues, the two pastors were taken from their prison cells without notice and transferred to a more dangerous prison.
Their whereabouts were unknown to their families and their attorneys for some time.
We have just learned from Mariam Ibraheem – who was freed from death row last year in Sudan after a global advocacy campaign for her release – that the Pastors Yat Michael Ruot and Peter Yein Reith have just been moved from Omdurman Men’s Prison, a low security facility, to a high security prison where conditions are far worse and no visitors are allowed.
No visits from anyone. Not even one of the pastors’ wife who attempted to see her husband after learning he had been moved. At the same time, the prohibition on visitors includes the pastors’ attorneys, a ban that violates international human rights law.
Concerns were raised on 4 June, when their families arrived at the prison and were refused access. On 6 June, prison authorities confirmed the pastors had been transferred to Kober Prison in North Khartoum. So far neither their wives nor lawyers have been allowed to visit them. No reason has been given for the move; however there are suspicions it may have been triggered by the actions of foreign visitors.
The pastor’s lawyers met with the Director of Prisons Administration on 7 June to request access to the pastors and were told they should approach the Director of Kober Prison for access. However, the Director refused the request and told the lawyers to get a court order, which was denied on 8 June on the grounds that such decisions are at the discretion of the Prison Director. There is speculation that the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) may have issued an order to the prison authorities preventing the pastors from having visitors.
Pastors Michael and Peter are currently on trial and face potential death sentences for a myriad of trumped-up charges ranging from insulting the Muslim religion and undermining the constitutional system to inciting religious sedition and undermining public order – all because of their Christian faith.
The trial has even faced delays because the government and prosecution have failed to produce any credible or viable evidence thus far.
The true absurdity? The detention, treatment, and trial of these two Christian Pastors violates Sudan’s constitution and international human rights commitments. The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies discusses this in more depth:
[T]he serious criminal charges against Mr. Michael and Mr. Yen have been levied solely on the basis of their religious convictions and outspoken criticism of the ruling party, and as such, that their continued detention and criminal proceedings are discriminatory and in violation of constitutional and international law guarantees of equality before the law. There is also speculation that the trial of the two men is intended to send a message to other Christian leaders in Sudan to refrain from criticizing the treatment of Christian minorities in Sudan and the policies of the ruling party.
Sudan’s constitution and international human rights commitments guarantee the freedom of expression and freedom of religion. Article 31 of Sudan’s Interim National Constitution of 2005 provides that all persons are “equal before the law and are entitled without discrimination, as to race, colour, sex, language, religious creed, political opinion, or ethnic origin, to the equal protection of the law.” Article 38 further provides that “every person shall have the right to the freedom of religious creed and worship”.
But despite facing potential death sentences if convicted when their trial resumes later this month, Pastor Peter asked this of all of his fellow Christians around the world in an exclusive interview with CBN News: “We want you to pray that this test be for the glory of God in this place . . . and for us to be in peace with our people and the ones who are against us.”
These pastors’ trial continues on June 15th. It is critical that we continue to demand their freedom now. Time is of the essence.
We will continue to work with Mariam Ibraheem (who is now free because you spoke out) and across the globe as we aggressively fight for the freedom of these two Christian pastors and many others persecuted for their faith.
Our Christian brothers are in grave danger. Stand with us to demand Sudan immediately release Pastors Michael and Peter as required by international law.
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