Sudan court acquits pastor of national security crimes
Three other men remain in custody on similar charges
A Sudanese court on Monday acquitted a pastor who faced the death penalty for national security crime charges after showing compassion for an injured student.
Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) first arrested the Rev. Kuwa Shamal along with two other Christians and a human rights activist in December 2015. The three other defendants, who also face death sentences, are still in jail.
“He was released after the court found that he was not guilty of the charges brought against him,” Muhanad Nur, one of the attorneys defending the Christians, told Morning Star News.
The trial began in August but has faced multiple delays. Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a UK-based nonprofit that works for religious freedom, said the court acquitted Shamal after the trial judge concluded there was no evidence against him. The next hearing will continue Jan. 9, Nur said.
Shamal, who leads missions at the Sudanese Church of Christ, and his colleague the Rev. Hassan Abduraheem attended a conference in November where Abduraheem said he was financially supporting the medical treatment of a student badly burned at a demonstration. The NISS arrested the two pastors the following month along with human rights activist Abdulmonem Abdumawla, who started the fundraising, and Petr Jasek, a Czech aid worker who donated some money.
The security service accused the men of attempting to tarnish the Sudanese government’s image by gathering information on Christian persecution and genocide in the Nuba Mountains region. They also faced charges of providing support to rebels and waging war against the state, among others.
“They don’t have any political relationships,” Pastor Emmanuel Ofendi, who leads the Cush Theological College in the Nuba Mountains, told Nuba Reports. “Their work is religious, and they are not supposed to be arrested for simply spreading the gospel.”
The U.S. State Department has designated Sudan a Country of Particular Concern due to its persecution of Christians and other human rights atrocities. Open Doors USA labeled the persecution level in the country extreme and said the government is trying to implement a single-religion policy.
Mervyn Thomas, the chief executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, lauded the court for releasing Shamal but called for the release of the other three accused men. The evidence the court deemed insufficient in Shamal’s case also was presented against the other three defendants, she said.
“We urge the Sudanese government to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of these men, who have been detained since December 2015, simply for an act of kindness,” Thomas said.
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