May 20, 2015 by Janelle P

Pray for the two South Sudanese Presbyterian Evangelical Church pastors, Yat Michael and Peter Yan, who are being detained in Sudan and who potentially face the death penalty or life imprisonment.

The Sudan Tribune reported that court proceedings for the trial started in Khartoum on Tuesday. According to the report, the court heard the testimony of a police investigator, Lieut. Colonel Mohamed Khair, who told the court about information found on one of the defendant’s personal computer. He said the information included detailed reports about population, coordinates, illiteracy rates and electricity coverage in all Sudan’s states along with information pertaining to the human rights situation in Sudan.

He also claimed the computer contained information about the training which National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) affiliates receive along with intelligence sites and graphics and measurements for various states.

According to Middle East Concern (MEC), the prosecutor did not finish and will continue to present his evidence at the next hearing scheduled for May 31. Afterwards, the defense lawyer will have an opportunity to present his case.

“The defense lawyer believes there is no real evidence against the two pastors for any of the charges. He also believes that the sole reason for the court case is the two pastors’ exercise of their Christian faith,” reported MEC.

The two pastors, who appeared in court wearing blue robes, were apparently taken back to prison at the end of the hearing.

Yat Michael was taken into custody on Dec. 21 after preaching at the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) Khartoum Bahri congregation. After the service several men who identified themselves as officers from the NISS demanded that Michael go with them, and took him away without further explanation. The next day the security forces went to Michael’s temporary home and took some of his clothes and personal belongings. They informed his wife that he was being held in relation to an ongoing investigation but did not reveal any further details, whether he was under arrest or what the charges were.

Peter Yan (also named as David Yein Reith in some reports) was arrested Jan. 11 after he delivered a letter to the Religious Affairs Office in Khartoum asking about his colleague Michael’s arrest in December.

Both men were held in unknown locations. On May 4 they were charged with eight offenses including disclosure and receipt of official information or documents, arousing feelings of discontent among regular forces, breach of public peace, and offenses relating to insulting religious beliefs. They also will face charges of undermining the constitutional system and waging war against the state, which carry the possibility of the death penalty or life imprisonment.

In February, Amnesty International expressed serious concerns for the two pastors’ well-being in detention, saying their families have had no further contact with the men since they were taken into custody.

Sudan is ranked sixth 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. Apostasy is criminalized, punishable by the death penalty.

Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.

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