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South Sudanese pastors facing death penalty in Khartoum trial

29 May 2015

TWO PASTORS from South Sudan are on trial in neighbouring Sudan, where they could face the death penalty.

The pastors, the Revd Yat Michael and the Revd Peter Yen, both from the South Sudanese Evangelical Presbyterian Church, face charges that include undermining the constitution, waging war against the State, and insulting religious beliefs.

The trial began on 19 May, and will resume on Sunday, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported. Mr Michael was arrested in December by officers from the Sudanese intelligence services, while preaching during a visit to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

Mr Yen was also arrested after he was summoned to the security services' offices in January because he wrote a letter enquiring about Mr Michael's arrest. Both men were detained without charge or access to their lawyers or families until March.

CSW believes that the arrest of Mr Michael is connected to a land dispute between the Khartoum church where he preached and the Sudanese authorities. Mohannad Mostafa, part of the pastors' defence team, told Bloomberg News that the charges were fabricated by the intelligence officers.

Amnesty International has previously expressed concern for the well-being of the two men, saying that they were at risk of torture.

The chief executive of CSW, Mervyn Thomas, said last week: "These men now face extreme and unwarranted charges that could lead to the death penalty or life imprisonment."

He also called on the UN's independent expert on Sudan and delegates from the African Commission on Human and People's Rights, who are all scheduled to visit the country this month, to raise the pastors' case with the Sudanese government.

These events come almost one year since Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese Christian, was sentenced to death for apostasy by a court in Khartoum. She was freed after a global campaign for her release ( News, 27 June 2014).

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