Monday was a critical day in the trial of two Sudanese Christian pastors who face possible death sentences because of their Christian faith.
After the prosecution rested its case last week, the judge was poised to announce whether or not he would drop the trumped-up charges against Pastor Kuwa Shamal and Pastor Hassan Abduraheem or whether the trial would proceed. At the end of the hearing yesterday, one pastor was freed and the other was left in prison to continue to the next phase of the trial where he will defend himself against dire charges that could result in the death penalty.
During the proceedings, the Sudanese judge first announced that he was dropping all charges against Pastor Kuwa and he was to be released to his family. Pastor Kuwa has been held at the hands of Sudan’s National Intelligence Security Service (NISS) since last December, so his release is an answer to many prayers and the result of diligent legal work on the ground in Sudan.
But the news for Pastor Hassan was not as hopeful. The judge announced that he would proceed with charges against Pastor Hassan and two other men standing trial with him. Among the laundry list of charges levied against them are espionage and agitating hatred between classes, false charges that could carry a death sentence upon conviction.
The Sudanese defense team for Pastor Hassan must now put on proof of his innocence at the next hearing on Monday.
Both pastors were originally arrested on false charges brought against them by Islamic security forces in December 2015. The men attended a Christian conference in Addis Ababa, Ethopia in November 2015 and the charges against them stem from their financial aid to an injured young man who was also attending the conference. The men were simply living out their Christian faith by helping a young man in need of medical attention, but the Sudanese security forces falsely claim that their charity masked a sinister agenda to support rebel forces.
While Pastor Kuwa’s freedom is a reason for celebration, there is much work yet to do. Prayers and advocacy are needed more than ever before as Pastor Hassan and the other two men on trial face horrible circumstances as the trial enters the next phase.
The ACLJ will continue working with sources on the ground in the region as we continue our international legal advocacy for freedom and justice for Pastor Hassan.
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