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7/2/15 Washington, DC (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Mohaned Mustafa, the lawyer for the two South Sudanese pastors targeted for opposing the destruction of a church in Khartoum has less than two weeks to mount a defense for his clients, even though Sudan has denied him access to the pastors. Incredibly, Mustafa has only been able to meet with *Pastors Peter and Michael for ten minutes, since their imprisonment at high-security Kober prison on June 4th. The lack of access is especially worrying, since they have been charged with espionage and criminal conspiracy and they may receive the death penalty.

Sources close to the case reported to ICC that on July 2nd, the judge on the case determined that the state has produced enough evidence to try them on all charges. The judge questioned the pastors during their first opportunity to take the stand and now, the trial will move forward with the defense having to refute the evidence against them under a presumption of their guilt.

The charges are widely seen as trumped up and part of Sudan’s evolving strategy to target Christians after a previous case against a Christian woman (Meriam Ibrahim) turned into an international fiasco last year. In fact, when Mustafa questioned expert witnesses in court about what proof they had to support the government’s charges, they said they had none, according to ICC’s sources.

The judge allowed the case to go forward despite the fact that that the only evidence presented against the pastors were  internal church reports, maps and demographic data about Khartoum, Christian literature, and a study guide on the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), all of which NISS found on the pastors’ computers.

All of the materials used as evidence against the pastors are publicly available, except for the internal church report and the NISS study guide. The pastors have no knowledge of how the latter got onto their computers. NISS has also held Pastor Michael’s sermon in December 2014 against him, when he preached at Khartoum Bhari Evangelical Church to encourage church members to stand firm amidst government persecution.

Defendants’ right to access to an attorney is one guaranteed by both Sudanese and international law, but Sudan’s law grants sole discretion on visitation rights to the prison directorate. Mustafa plans to appeal this matter on Sunday, citing that the pastors are being denied their constitutional rights.

Mustafa, himself, is out on bail after being arrested and publicly shamed on July 1st. He was detained for questioning authorities after they attempted to illegally destroy a part of the church where Pastor Michael was arrested.

ICC’s Regional manager for Africa Troy Augustine said, “The judge’s decision to move forward on all of the charges, is upsetting but not surprising. In this case, as well as previously, Sudan has shown a consistent and total lack of regard for justice.  Those concerned must speak up and put pressure on Sudan to release the two pastors.”

The phone numbers for Sudan’s embassies and consulates can be found below.

United States: +1 202 338-8565

United Kingdom: +44 020 7839 8080

Spain: +34 91 417 49 03

Portugal: +20-2-7350779

France: +33 1 42 25 55 71

Switzerland: +41 22 731 26 66

Belgium: +32 2 647 94 94

The Netherlands: +31 70 360 5300

Germany: +49 30 8906980

Italy: +39 06 3322 2138

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 Please Contact Troy Augustine, Regional Manager for Africa: [email protected]

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address, ICC is a Washington DC-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church.  For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.