Sudanese Authorities to Charge Detained Pastor with Crimes That Could Carry Death Penalty, ICC Learns
5/24/16 Washington, DC (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.
Mustafa defended pastors Peter Yein Reith and Yat Michael, who faced similar death penalty charges during the summer of 2015, before global international pressure on Sudan compelled a judge to release them without further penalty on August 6. Mustafa also defended Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman sentenced to hang in 2014, charged with apostasy and adultery for marrying a Christian man and practicing the Christian faith. Sudanese authorities released Ibrahim on June 26, 2014.
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.
Crackdown on Christians
The custody transfer comes five months after Taour’s arrest, while Sudanese law requires that defendants be arraigned of charges within the first 45 days. Authorities detained Taour in the midst of a December crackdown on church leaders, which netted at least two other arrests.
On May 10, Sudan released Christian discipleship leader Telahoon “Telal” Nogossi Kassa Rata after holding him incommunicado since December 18. 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.
Officials also detained Pastor Kuwa Shamal on December 18, releasing him three days later, but required him to report for questioning from 8:00 a.m. until midnight each day until January 16, 2016.
Sudan is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects religious freedom and the right to a fair trial. Even Sudan’s 2005 constitution allows for freedom of worship. Therefore, Sudan’s recent actions towards Rev. Taour exist in contradiction to these documents that are supposed to form the law of the land.
Troy Augustine, Regional Manager for Africa, said, “Sudan continues to show itself as the enemy of religious freedom and one of the prime persecutor’s of the Church in Africa. The government’s actions towards Hassan Abduraheem Taour are deeply unjust, but demonstrate an unsurprising pattern that has continued for years. As Sudan continues to harass and unfairly detain church leaders, the state proves itself to stand for human rights and religious freedom under the law, but hypocritical and contradictory in practice. However, as we have seen in the past with the cases of Meriam Ibrahim and Pastors Peter and Yat, Sudan often responds to international pressure. ICC calls on everyone concerned to voice your protest with the Sudanese Embassy in Washington and Ambassador Maowia Osman Khalid to call for Rev. Taour’s immediate release. The embassy can be reached at +1 202.338.8565.”