Date: March 31, 2017
The Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU, Jan Figel, who visited Sudan in mid-March, has called for the pardon of two jailed Sudanese men, one a leader in the Sudan Church of Christ. Both were sentenced with the now-released Czech aid worker Petr Jasek. Since his pardon and release on 27 February 2017, supporters say there are no grounds to keep the other two in prison. Both prisoners had been arrested in December 2015 for “aiding and abetting” Petr Jasek in his alleged ‘spying’.
Two months ago (29 January 2017) Revd Hassan Abduraheem and geologist Abdumonem Abdumawla were found guilty by a court in the Sudanese capital Khartoum of aiding Jasek to ‘spy’, incitement of hatred between religious groups, and propagation of false news. They were sentenced to 12 years in prison, and their families wept as they heard the verdict.
Mr. Abdumawla was arrested by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) in December 2015, after he began collecting money to help his friend, Ali Omer, a young Darfuri student, who had been injured and seriously burned during a demonstration in July 2013. Mr Abdumawla was put in contact with Revd Abduraheem and Petr Jašek, who then donated money towards Mr Omer’s treatment.
Mr Abdumawla was held by the NISS between December 2015 and May 2016, not allowed to meet or communicate with his family during this time. He was moved to the Attorney General’s custody in May 2016 when the prosecutor started his criminal investigation. Mr Abdumawla is currently being held in al-Huda Prison in Omdurman.
Revd Abduraheem was arrested by NISS at his home on 19 December 2015. NISS held him until 9 May 2016, when he too was moved to the Attorney General’s custody. Thereafter the prosecutor started building a case against him, which revolves around an act of kindness: he donated money towards medical treatment for Ali Omer. He also facilitated a meeting between Jašek and Mr Omer, after which Jašek donated $5,000 to Omer’s treatment.
While detained by the NISS, Revd Abduraheem was not allowed to see his family, members of his church, or legal representatives. His family is especially concerned for his health as he suffers from stomach ulcers, and they have been unable to get his medication to him. He is currently also held in al-Huda Prison.
Petr Jasek, found guilty of charges and sentenced to more than 20 years in prison, was then pardoned and freed by President Omar Bashir, but Revd Abduraheem and Mr Abdumawla still remain in prison more than a month later. They have appealed against their sentences, which have yet to be ruled on.
The chairman of Sudan’s Legislation and Justice Committee at the National Assembly, Ahmed El Tijani, also reported that Jan Figel asked about the demolition of several churches. El Tijani told him that the churches were demolished for land-ownership reasons, and reaffirmed that some mosques have been demolished for the same reason. Last February, there were reports that Khartoum state authorities decided to demolish 25 churches. However, this decision has been suspended.
(Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, seven former Sudanese dioceses moved to South Sudan leaving only two dioceses for the small Christian minority in Sudan, mainly in South Kordofan and Khartoum states).
Jan Figel said that the exchanges he had during his visit “demonstrated readiness of Sudanese partners to engage in continuous and constructive dialogue on religious diversity in Sudan, Horn of Africa and globally”.