Thank you LORD!
(Morning Star News) – Two South Sudanese pastors arrived home in Juba from Khartoum, Sudan today after an eight-month ordeal of imprisonment, fabricated charges of capital crimes and a ban on leaving the country.
The Rev. Peter Yein Reith and the Rev. Yat Michael were acquitted of the crimes calling for the death penalty on Aug. 5 but were prevented from boarding a plane out of the country the next day. Sudan’s notorious National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) had ordered the travel ban when they were initially detained – Michael on Dec. 14 and Reith on Jan. 11 – and gave the orders to the airport personnel.
Attorneys for the two pastors have been working for their release since then, but it was not immediately clear how they were able to leave the country today. Michael and Reith were transported from Juba International Airport to a church in Hai Jebel in Juba, where they attended a thanksgiving service.
“Thank God for their arrival home,” the wife of Michael told Morning Star News after the service.
South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) leaders welcomed the pastors, who expressed their gratitude to Morning Star News amid the cheering congregation. An international outcry erupted over their weeks-long incarceration without charges after Morning Star News on Dec. 28, 2014 broke the news of Michael’s arrest, and on Jan. 20 published the first account of Reith’s arrest.
“Thank you very much, Morning Star News, for your great role which led to our release from jail,” Reith said.
Reith and Michael were convicted of lesser charges and released on the time they had served. Reith was convicted under Article 65 of “establishing or participating in a criminal organization,” while Michael was convicted under Article 69 of “disturbing public peace.”
The SSPEC pastors had also been charged with spying (Article 53), punishable by death, life imprisonment or prison and confiscation of property; undermining the constitutional system (Article 50), punishable by death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment and confiscation of property; disclosure and obtaining information and official documents (Article 55), punishable by two years in prison or a fine; blasphemy/insulting religious creeds (Article 125), punishable by one year of imprisonment or a fine or no more than 40 lashes; and joint acts in execution of a criminal conspiracy (Article 21).
Agents from NISS, said to be manned by hard-line Islamists, arrested the pastors.
Michael, 49, was arrested after encouraging Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church; the church was the subject of government harassment, arrests and demolition of part of its worship center as Muslim investors have tried to take it over. Reith, 36, was arrested on Jan. 11 after submitting a letter from SSPEC leaders inquiring about the whereabouts of Michael.
Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2015 report.
Sudan ranked sixth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face most persecution, moving up from 11th place the previous year.Freed!
5th August, 2015
Pastor Yat Michael and Pastor Peter Yein were today freed by a court in Khartoum after an eight-month ordeal which began when Pastor Yat Michael was arrested in Khartoum in December 2014.
The two pastors from South Sudan were facing six charges including spying and could have faced the death penalty.
Judge Ahmed Ghaboush found each pastor guilty on one charge. Yat Michael was convicted of inciting hatred and Peter Yein of breaching public peace. The judge said that he was releasing them on the basis they had already served their sentences as they awaited trial. He said, “The sentence they served in prison is enough, release them immediately and return the mobile phones and laptops.” The laptops and phones had been shown as evidence in court.
Foreign diplomats inside the courtroom followed proceedings, including the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedoms David N. Saperstein.
Following the judgement, Yat Michael said: “I am feeling free because I was in jail for many months. I have become like I’m born again.”
Outside the court, the men’s families rejoiced and sang, with some relatives breaking down in tears. Friends and supporters shouted “Hallelujah!” at the news that the men would be released after nearly eight months in prison.
Since being moved to the maximum security Kober Prison on 6 June, the pastors had not been allowed visits from their families or legal team, despite repeated appeals, and could only consult with their lawyers briefly prior to court hearings.
However, on Monday 3 August Peter Yein was permitted a telephone call to his lawyer and informed him that although he was suffering from malaria and a chest infection, his condition had somewhat improved.
Pastor Yat Michael was arrested on 21 December 2014 after visiting Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, which has been embroiled in a land dispute with the government, to preach and encourage the congregation. He is from Juba, the capital of South Sudan. He is married to Mary and they have two young children.
Pastor Peter Yein was arrested on 11 January after submitting a letter from leaders of their denomination, the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, inquiring about Pastor Yat Michael. He is married with a one-year-old son.
The two pastors were held incommunicado for several months before being brought to court in May where they faced six charges: undermining the constitutional system; waging war against the state; disclosure and receipt of official information or documents; arousing feelings of discontent among regular forces; breach of public peace; and offences relating to insulting religious beliefs.
|Photo:Christian Solidarity Worldwide|
OUR BROTHERS IN ETHIOPIA AND SUDAN NEED YOUR HELP NOW MORE THAN EVER!
SUDAN – Pray for South Sudanese pastors
Please pray for South Sudanese pastors Rev Yat Michael and Rev Peter Yein Reith
The pastors face serious criminal charges because of their links with a persecuted church in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. (Prayer Alert, July 9).
The defence challenged the prosecution evidence and asked the court to uphold the constitutional principles of a fair trial. The charges, some of which carry a potential death sentence, include undermining the constitutional system and espionage. In a week’s time, two South Sudanese pastors will find out if they could face the death penalty in Sudan. Please join us in praying that they will be acquitted of all charges and released unconditionally.
Rev Yat Michael and Rev Peter Reith are facing at least six serious charges, including espionage and undermining the constitutional system, both of which could carry the death penalty if they are convicted.
Why? Rev Michael delivered a sermon at a church that is embroiled in a land dispute with government-backed investors, which Sudan’s National Intelligence Services found offensive. He was subsequently arrested. Rev Reith sent a letter asking why and where he was being held, and he too was arrested. Both men were held in solitary confinement, without trial or charge, for 77 days. During the course of their trial they were moved to a high security prison; their families and lawyers have been refused visits since they were moved, and the two men were only allowed to meet with their lawyers briefly before each court hearing.
At the next hearing, which is scheduled for August 5, the judge is expected to deliver his verdict and sentence, if he finds the pastors guilty.
Please pray that the pastors will be found not guilty and their case dismissed.
(Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
Thank you to the hundreds of people who told us that they’d written to the Sudanese and Ethiopian embassies in protest. Indeed, the emails completely filled up the Sudanese Embassy’s inbox in one afternoon!
Today, 8 July, is the scheduled final appeal for our three brothers, Tibebu Mekuria, Dawit Jemberu and Belete Tilahun in Ethiopia. Please hold them in your prayers as they appear before the court for the final time, seeking to overturn their unjust prison sentences+++++++++++++++++++++As a trusted partner in our advocacy work we wanted to let you know that, due to significant security concerns, we will not be publicising this action on our website. We ask that you also do not publicise this action in connection with Open Doors.
Thank you for your understanding and discretion. Instead, we would appreciate it if you could notify us by email if you do write to the Sudanese authorities, as we would love to encourage our contacts with news of the support that you have given to our brothers. Please send your emails to: email@example.com
|SUDAN LETTEREmail address: firstname.lastname@example.orgHis Excellency Mr Mohammed Abdalla Ali Eltom
Ambassador of the Republic of Sudan
Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan
3 Cleveland Row
SW1A 1DDYour Excellency,The Republic of Sudan is a country with a long and rich history and culture. I appreciate the fact that Sudan is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and that the 2005 Interim National Constitution of Sudan provides for freedom of religion or belief throughout the entire country.In this context, I am writing to you to request a fair trial and justice for Reverend Michael Yat and Reverend Peter Yen Reith of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, both South Sudanese citizens arrested in Khartoum.Rev Michael Yat was taken into custody on 21 December 2014, after preaching at the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church Khartoum Bahri congregation. Rev Peter Yen Reith (also known as David Yein Reith) was arrested on 11 January 2015, reportedly after he inquired about the whereabouts of Rev Michael.It was only on 4 May, more than four months after their arrests, that the pastors were charged with eight offences including disclosure and receipt of official information or documents, arousing feelings of discontent among regular forces, breach of public peace, and offences related to insulting religious beliefs. They will also face charges of undermining the constitutional system, and waging war against the state, which carry the possibility of the death penalty or life imprisonment.
It is my understanding that there is no evidence against the two pastors for any of the charges. Well-informed sources have it that the case against both men is motivated by the religious convctions of the accused.
Your Excellency, I am asking you to do everything in your power to ensure that Reverend Michael Yat and Reverend Peter Yen Reith are given a fair trial.
I appeal to your government to treat these two Christian workers with the justice and mercy that is in keeping with the values of the Sudanese people.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
Your first name, last name
Zoe & Anastasia
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