Sudan Releases One Church Leader While One Remains Imprisoned

UPDATE:

International Christian Concern
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sudan Releases One Church Leader While One Remains Imprisoned
 
Pastors Rejoice and Reflect on their own Incarceration in Sudan for their Christian Faith

05/11/2016 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Sudanese Christians rejoice at the news of the release of one Christian leader from prison in Khartoum, while another pastor who was arrested one week later remains in custody.

 
Sudanese authorities released Telahoon “Telal” Nogossi Kassa Rata on May 10, according to sources close to the case. Rata never faced charges and remained in solitary confinement for nearly five months, having been granted only two brief visits with family during that time.
 
“We are happy and thankful to God for the release of Telal. His family, the churches in Sudan, and the entire body of Christ is rejoicing,” Rev. Peter Yein Reith told International Christian Concern (ICC). Peter and his associate Yat Michael Ruot faced trumped-up espionage charges in Sudan, and were held for nearly nine months before a judge released them in August 2015.
 
Rata heads the Fellowship of University Christian Students (FOUCS), a student discipleship movement, and ministers with the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, which Sudanese authorities regularly harass with arbitrary arrests, beatings, and building demolitions.
 
Officers from the National Intelligence Security Service (NISS), Sudan’s notoriously hardline Islamist intelligence unit, arrested Rata on December 13, 2015, after calling him in for questioning, and held him at Kober Prison in Khartoum. Rata’s imprisonment represents part of a larger crackdown on Christian church leaders in Sudan that began in December 2015.
 
Arrests of Pastors in Sudan Nothing New
 
Sudan continues to hold Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Taour without charge after his arrest on December 21, 2015. Sources tell ICC that Taour suffers from a stomach ulcer and has been transferred to custody of the Attorney General who is preparing to bring him up on serious criminal charges. Authorities have blocked Taour’s access to family and legal counsel.
 
Officials also detained Pastor Kuwa Shamal on December 18, releasing him three days later, but required him to report for questioning each day from 8:00 a.m. until midnight until January 16, 2016.
 
Pastors Peter and Michael know what Taour is going through and remember what it was like when they were released like Rata.
 
“It was a joyful experience when we were released in August 2015, after going through an extremely hard time for nine months and appearing 11 times in court. Tears of joy covered our eyes when we reunited with our families once again. This is the same feeling [Rata] experienced,” Peter told ICC.
 
Meanwhile, Christians in Sudan continue to suffer persecution where Islamic Sharia law forms the law of the land.
 
Sudan’s crackdown on Christian pastors represents a massive legal contradiction, considering the country’s constitution and international treaty obligations.
 
Sudan is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects religious freedom, as well as the right to a fair trial. Additionally, Sudan’s 2005 Interim National Constitution of Sudan provides for freedom of religion.
 

“ICC applauds the release of Telahoon Nogossi Kassa Rata, but calls upon Sudan to immediately release Hassan Abdulraheem Taour. Sudan’s continued harassment of Christian leaders displays unacceptable examples of thuggish intimidation designed to intimidate the Christian minority. We urge everyone concerned to pray fervently for this persecuted population and call on Sudan to hold to its constitution and treaty obligations in protecting religious freedom for all people,” ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Troy Augustine, said.

Latest…05/24/2016 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a Christian pastor could face the death penalty after his attorney told ICC that the government is planning to charge him with espionage and various crimes against the state.

Sudanese intelligence officials (NISS) arrested Taour on December 21, 2015 and held him incommunicado, blocking his access to family and legal counsel until this week. Taour serves as a reverend with the Sudan Church of Christ.
According to Taour’s attorney, Mohaned Mustafa, Taour still awaits official charges, but they could draw from sections 50, 51, 53, 55, and 64 of the Sudan Criminal Act of 1991. These include “undermining the constitutional system,” “waging war against the state,” “disclosure and obtaining information and official documents,” “provoking hatred against or amongst sects,” and espionage. Three of these crimes carry the possibility of the death penalty, if convicted.
“We believe there is no case,” Mustafa told ICC. “I think the case [will be sent] to the court this month,” he said.
The news broke on May 10 that the Sudanese Attorney General was taking over Taour’s custody, a move that signaled charges are forthcoming.
Sources tell ICC that Taour suffers from a stomach ulcer and that officials only recently afforded him one visit with family.

Pastors Telal Rata (left) and Hassan Taour have been detained incommunicado and with no charges. World Watch Monitor

(World Watch Monitor) Sudanese authorities have been keeping two Christian pastors in an unknown location since mid-December, with no official charges yet filed against them.

On 12. Dec., members of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) visited the family home of Telahoon Nogosi Kassa Rata, a leader of the Fellowship of University Christian Students and a leader of Khartoum North Evangelical Church, sources close to the detainees said.

Telahoon (also known as Telal) Rata was told to “report” to the local NISS office north of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. “He went to the NISS office behind the airport at al-Mashtel the next day, and he has been detained ever since,” the sources, requesting anonymity, said.

Meanwhile, two pastors from the Sudan Church of Christ, a denomination whose members originate predominantly from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan, were arrested by the NISS on 18 December.

The latest cases are representative of a much larger campaign by Sudan’s government to eradicate Christianity.

Rev. Kuwa Shamal, (the head of a church committee) was taken from his home in the district of Bahri, north of Khartoum, while Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour (the church’s vice-moderator) was detained while at home in Omdurman, a city across the Nile, west of the capital.

Shamal was released three days later, but was required to continue to report daily to the NISS until this formal requirement was cancelled on 16 Jan.

Both Rata and Taour remain in custody in an unknown location, with no access for either family or lawyers.

Rev. Rata’s parents were allowed to visit him only once, five days after his arrest, family said. They met with him in Khartoum’s al-Kober prison.

Since then they have tried four times to visit him again, but each time they were told to apply for permission to visit, only to be told a week later their request had been denied, confirmed the family.

Background

Thirty-six-year-old Christian worker Telal Rata was not at home the night the NISS agents came, 12 December. But some of his belongings were confiscated at his parents’ home, where he lived.

A lawyer has asked to see both Rata and Taour, but was informed by the prosecution that both are still being held by the NISS and no access to them will be given until the NISS hands them over for prosecution.

No details are known of the Christians’ legal status or physical condition, while they are being held incommunicado.

Rev. Taour’s lawyer has written to the Sudanese Human Rights Council to ask for help in bringing his client’s case to a court of law. In a letter to the Sudan HRC judge, he explained that the National Security was denying the pastors their basic rights by denying their lawyers access. He has received no reply.

The Sudan Council of Churches has also written a letter to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Omdurman Government Minister and the Security Office to appeal for access to Rev. Taour and “other Christians”, but again there has been no reply.

According to Sudanese law, 45 days after arrest a detained individual should either be presented before court or released. However, neither of these actions has occurred in Rata’s or Taour’s case.

Initially Rata’s detention was suggested to be “on religious charges”, but sources close to the case have hinted the Christian activist is now being investigated for espionage, a charge Sudan has eventually resorted to before, after prolonged detentions of Christians.

In August 2015, Khartoum released two South Sudanese pastors whom it accused of “spying”. Pastors Yat Michael and Peter Yen were in prison for eight and seven months, respectively.

“The latest cases are representative of a much larger campaign by Sudan’s government to eradicate Christianity,” Sudanese religious freedom activist Kamal Fahmi told World Watch Monitor.

“Since the secession of South Sudan [in July 2011], Khartoum has intensified the war in Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains [both areas of known Christian presence], and the indiscriminate harassment and arrests of church leaders and active church members,” said Fahmi, who heads an advocacy website, ‘Set My People Free’, calling for the repeal of Islam’s blasphemy and apostasy laws.

“Foreign Christian workers have been deported. Sudan has stopped the import of Christian literature and scriptures, while confiscating most of the Christian literature in the country and closing the only Christian bookshop in the capital, Khartoum,” Fahmi said.

“Torture and arrest of converts from Islam is also commonplace,” he added.

UPDATE..

Please pray for our Sudanese brother, Pastor Kowa Shamaal. He has just been arrested in Khartoum again – for the second time in six months. He was detained for three days in December (Prayer Alert, January 4) and was re-arrested on Tuesday. His case is reportedly going to be linked to that of two pastors, Hassan Abduraheem Taour and Abdulmonem Abdumawla Issa Abdumawla, who are expected to face serious charges including spying. Pastor Kowa’s arrest is thought to be linked to his objections to the demolition of Sudan Church of Christ buildings. (Source: Middle East Concern).

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