FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
7/2/15 Washington, DC (International Christian Concern) –
Attorney Mohaned Mustafa continues his defense of two South Sudanese Christian pastors, just one day after he was arrested, International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned. Mustafa represents *Pastors Peter and Michael, who could face the death penalty on trumped up charges. He previously represented Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian mother released in 2014 after being sentenced to death. This case ended with a black eye for the government in Khartoum which is part of the reason he was targeted by the government.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reported to ICC that police detained Mustafa and Pastor Hafez on July 1st, charging him with Article 99 of the Sudanese Penal Code, which states: “Whoever obstructs a public servant or attacks him or uses criminal force to stop him from carrying out his duties or because of his performance of such duties shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or with fine or with both.”
Both Mustafa and Pastor Hafez of the have been released on bail. They were arrested at Khartoum Bhari Evangelical Church, the same church where Pastor Michael preached in December, which led to his arrest.
According to ACLJ, officials arrested the two men at the church and then marched them around the nearby market, instead of escorting them directly to the police station, which stands nearly 200 yards from the church.
“They essentially paraded [them] through the public market with hands cuffed,” Tiffany Barrans, ACLJ International Legal Director told ICC. “It was clearly done with the intention to bring shame,” she added.
According to Barrans, the accused did nothing that would warrant an arrest under Article 99. The two men were present on the scene when officials attempted to illegally destroy a portion of the church building under government orders. The two men peacefully protested the illegal destruction which led to their arrest.
A History of Persecution
The Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) where Pastors Michael Peter and Hafez serve has faced consistent persecution from the Sudanese government dating back to a land dispute between Khartoum Bhari Evangelical Church and the state. Sudanese officials have reportedly beaten and arrested congregants, have bulldozed sections of the church in Khartoum before, and have demolished a pastor’s house.
“Almost all pastors [have] gone to jail under the government of Sudan. We have been stoned and beaten. This is their habit to pull down the church. We are not surprised. This is the way they deal with the church,” Rev. Tut Kony from SPEC told The Christian Post.
Pastors Michael and Peter were arrested in December and January and charged with spying and various other crimes against the state related to their support for the embattled Khartoum Bhari Evangelical Church. Today, they will appear before the judge for questioning and he will decide whether there exists sufficient evidence to proceed with their trial. If he deems that the government has provided enough evidence to move forward, the defense must then refute the prosecution’s claims.
“The sources have all said the amount of evidence presented is laughable,” Barrans said. “Every time they came up against cross-examination, they had no evidence to any of the charges. For serious crimes, they should have serious evidence,” she added.
“ICC urges all concerned readers to pray for the release of Pastors Peter and Michael. The arrests of Mustafa and Pastor Hafez demonstrate an unacceptable hostility that the Sudanese government continues to levy against SPEC and the Khartoum Bhari Evangelical Church. Sadly, this kind of persecution is all too common in a country notorious for oppressing Christians from Darfur to Khartoum,” said Troy Augustine, ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa.
Note: The names “Pastor Peter” and “Pastor Michael” are simplified versions of their full names Peter Yein Reith and Yat Michael Ruot, which carry a variety of spellings. The names used in the article were chosen for clarity and consistency.
For interviews, contact Troy Augustine Regional Manager for Africa: RM-Africa@persecution.org
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Troy Augustine, Regional Manager for Africa