More details have emerged since last Thursday’s hearing at Sudan’s Khartoum Bahri court in the case against South Sudanese pastors Yat Michael and Peter Yen. After the hearing and the presentation of the defense lawyers, the presiding judge pronounced the case was closed awaiting the final ruling on Aug. 5.
Thabith Al Zubir, one of the lawyers defending the pastors, asked the presiding judge to drop the case because the defense team has refuted all the accusations against the pastors and because there was no clear evidence in the case. They also argued that their clients were arrested illegally by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).
“Justice requires that you don’t judge simply because you doubt without any concrete evidence,” the lawyer said.
The lawyer also said Yat Michael did not violate Sudan’s law when he was preaching in Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church because he was just carrying out his duty as a pastor.
In addition, the lawyer raised concern over the fact that Yat Michael and Peter Yen were being tried illegally for insulting religion.
“To urge believers to be zealous for their church is not an insult against God,” the lawyer said, referring to NISS arresting Pastor Yat Michael on Dec. 14, 2014 after delivering a sermon in Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, north of Khartoum.
The lawyer said that the pastors were illegally detained for a long period of time without a trial. “This is illegal and against the bill of rights in Sudan’s constitution,” Al Zubir said.
He called on the court to respect Sudan’s constitution above the powers of the National Intelligence and Security Service to arrest and detain any person for a long period of time without trial. The lawyers concluded that the court should accept their appeal and drop the charges for lack of evidence.
“These charges are built on sand,” the lawyers concluded.
The court has now questioned both of the accused pastors and listened to both defense and prosecution teams. The charges against the two pastors include: complicity in committing crimes with other bodies (article 21), spying for outsiders (article 53) and collecting and leaking information to the detriment of Sudanese national security (article 55). The charge of undermining the constitutional system (article 50) has been dropped,” reports Radio Tamazuj, an online independent news service broadcast in Sudan and South Sudan. Two of the charges carry the death sentence.
Pastor Peter Yen was arrested on Jan. 11, 2015 after presenting a letter to Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowment inquiring about the arrest of his friend Yat Michael.
Sudan is ranked #6 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians. Islam is well-rooted in the Sudanese society. The overwhelming majority of the population in Sudan is Sunni Muslim, and Sharia law is the foundation of Sudan’s legal system. The regime is authoritarian and wants to control all aspects of the lives of its citizens. Blasphemy laws are used country-wide to persecute and prosecute Christians.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.