A Sudanese judge has decided there is enough evidence to bring formal charges against South Sudanese pastors Yat Michael and Peter Yen. The men are facing charges on seven alleged crimes, two of which carry the death penalty.
On July 1, their lawyer Mr. Muhaned Mustafa received notice that he had less than two weeks to prepare the case for the July 14 hearing, and that he will have only 10 to 15 minutes before the hearing to prepare his clients. At the end of the proceedings, the court will have the final opportunity to review all of the evidence presented and either drop the charges or convict the pastors.
Yat Michael was taken into custody on December 21, 2014 shortly after preaching at a morning church service in Khartoum. Peter Yen was arrested on January 11, 2015 after he delivered a letter to the Religious Affairs Office in Khartoum asking about his colleague Michael’s arrest in December.
Evidence against them is vague and based on the sermon Yat Michael preached last December and on documents found on their computer after their arrests, which included internal church reports and a study guide on the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). According to the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), with the exception of the internal church report and the study guide on NISS, all the materials found on the computer were publicly accessible materials. Though the pastors acknowledged having the internal church report, both said they had never seen the study guide on NISS until it was presented in court and had no knowledge of how it got on the computer.
“The judge in this case is walking a tight rope,” commented an Open Doors spokesman. “He is under pressure to balance local expectations on him to uphold the principles of the Sharia-governed state with adherence to international human rights standards. Christians around the world must pray and advocate fervently for justice to be done for the pastors in accordance with international human rights standards.”
Ashagrie, persecution analyst for World Watch Research, explained that while it is common for Christians to be charged with serious crimes in Sudan, this case is significant because these pastors are citizens of another country, South Sudan, and it indicates that citizens of neighboring countries will face the same persecution as local Sudanese Christians. This is particularly true for Christians from South Sudan, especially as the civil war in South Sudan is merging with the conflict in Sudan (in particular in Unity State).
“It is apparent that the government of Sudan will leave no stone unturned to persecute Christians. Thus, it is important that Christians take precautionary measures when entering the jurisdiction of Sudan, stated Ashagrie. “Furthermore, it is profoundly important to stand with those who are charged with such serious crimes. It was just a year ago that the pressure from the international community forced the government of Sudan to release Meriam Ibrahim who was sentenced to death for apostasy.”
“Your love Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, Your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (Ps 36:5-9) We pray, Father, for Your justice to prevail for these pastors, that You will grant wisdom and protection to the legal team. Through Your Word, strengthen their faith, Lord, to meet whatever circumstances come before them. And, in all of these trials that have come into their lives, let Your peace cover them and that Your name might be glorified in the nation of Sudan and beyond. In the name of Jesus who reigns in glory, Amen!
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