The trial for Pastors Michael and Peter resumes tomorrow in Sudan, where they could face death sentences for the trumped-up charges brought against them.
Now, in the days before the trial resumes, the ACLJ has learned from our sources on the ground that their attorney, Mohaned Mustafa, has been arrested along with Pastor Hafez of the Khartoum Bhari Evangelical Church. This is the same church where Pastor Michael preached and spoke out against the persecution of Christians in Sudan and an ongoing land dispute between the church and the government.
The morning of Mr. Mustafa and Pastor Hafez’s arrest, the church asked Mr. Mustafa to come to the property when the police showed up with engineers to destroy property under a government order. When Mr. Mustafa arrived on the scene, things were calm.
He asked to review the order, which clearly gave the government authority to destroy section 5D of the church compound, the police, however, were instructing them to destroy section 5H. He spoke with the engineer on the scene and reviewed the land plot map. Both agreed that they had been pointed to the wrong area.
The engineer took the matter up with the police present who were angered by the situation. The police then arrested Pastor Hafez and put him in handcuffs. Rather than taking him to the police station by car, which is roughly 200 meters from the church, the police forced the pastor to walk to the police station, parading him through the public market with his hands shackled.
Mr. Mustafa stayed on the church compound to observe. He overheard the engineer continue to press the police officer on the matter, but the police said they did not care it was not correct. At that time, the police approached Mr. Mustafa and said he had no right to stay on the property grounds. He responded calmly that he was the legal representative, had done nothing wrong, and was there to observe that the court order was followed properly. He was then arrested and taken to the police station and held for five hours before being released on bail.
Both Pastor Hafez and Mr. Mustafa are now out on bail, but will have to defend their actions before a criminal court. They have been charged with violating article 99 of the Sudanese Penal Code of 1991 which criminalizes obstructing a public servant during the course of his duty. If convicted they could receive up to six months imprisonment, a fine or both.
Because the trial for Pastors Michael and Peter continues tomorrow, this arrest of their attorney is of great concern. While we are pleased that he was promptly released on bail, the arrest shows a potential that high-level individuals are attempting to interfere in the judicial cases involving both the church land dispute and Pastors Michael and Peter.
As we’ve previously reported, the trial is nearing a critical point in which the judge must review if there is sufficient evidence that would require the defense to put on its case or whether all or any of the charges should be dropped for a lack of evidence.
We must continue to pray and speak up for justice for Pastors Michael and Peter. Like Mariam Ibraheem before them, their lives hang in the balance. We must continue to mobilize all of our resources to demand justice.
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