Christian Sudanese Pastors Face Death Penalty on ‘Blasphemy’ Charges

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is reporting that Pastor Michael and Pastor Pete, two Sudanese Christian pastors, face the death penalty after a judge charged them with numerous offenses. Now it is up to the defense to prove their innocence.

The court has also arrested their lawyer, Mohaned Mustafa, and a third pastor, Pastor Hafez from the Khartoum Bhari Evangelical Church, which is where Pastor Michael preached.

ACLJ wrote out all the charges and sentences they could receive if found guilty:

Article 21: Joint acts in execution of a criminal conspiracy;
Article 50: Undermining the constitutional system (Penalty: death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment and confiscation of property);
Article 53: Espionage (Penalty: death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment and confiscation of property);
Article 55: Disclosure and obtaining information and official documents (Penalty: 2 years imprisonment or a fine);
Article 64: Promoting hatred amongst or against sects (Penalty: 2 years imprisonment);
Article 69: Disturbance of the public peace (Penalty: 6 months imprisonment; or fine or no more than 20 lashes);
Article 125: Blasphemy/insulting religious creeds (Penalty: 1 year imprisonment; or a fine or no more than 40 lashes).

During the trial, the prosecution’s witnesses could not provide more evidence in addition to the alleged incriminating documents. These documents “include church reports, maps that show the population and topography of Khartoum, Christian literature, and a study guide on the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).” The public can access all these documents, except the church reports and study guide. The two pastors admit to owning the church report, but they deny possessing the study guide.

Their lawyer wanted access to his clients, but the judge only allowed him to meet with them in the court. The judge violated Sudanese and international law, which states a lawyer is allowed to meet with his clients. Mustafa said he will appeal on Sunday.

Now, he might not be able to, since officials arrested him and Pastor Hafez on Thursday. ACLJ reported that the church asked him to come over because the police arrived with engineers with a court order to destroy property. Everything remained calm until Mustafa and the engineers realized they were in the wrong location:

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.

The engineer told the police they could not destroy the property. His insistence infuriated the police, who turned to Mustafa and told him to leave the premises. Mustafa said no, which infuriated the officers. Police arrested him and pushed him into jail. Both men received bail, but this could be a setback for the two pastors Mustafa represents:

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.

The judge for the two pastors also limited visitations from family members, even though the Sudan Constitution states prisoners can receive visits from family and friends. Each visit is only ten minutes.

“This is meant to put more psychological pressures and warfare on the arrested pastors,” said Mustafa.


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