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Couple on trial for adultery in Sudan after conversion to Christianity

21 January 2022

Alamy

People take part in a protest in Khartoum, last week, against military rule, after the army seized power last October

People take part in a protest in Khartoum, last week, against military rule, after the army seized power last October

A MARRIED couple are on trial for adultery in Sudan after the husband converted to Christianity.

The advocacy charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said that, although apostasy has been decriminalised in Sudan, people who had converted were being prosecuted on other grounds, such as adultery.

The case of Nada Hamad Koko and her husband, Hamada Teya Keffi, began in 2018, when her family discovered that he had converted to Christianity, and they filed for divorce on her behalf, as the law prohibits a Muslim woman from being married to a non-Muslim man.

The divorce was granted, and Ms Koko returned with her two young children to live with her family. Last year, however, she reunited with Mr Kaffi, and her family filed a criminal case. The couple have now been charged with adultery.

As changing one’s faith was decriminalised in 2020, Ms Koko said that she had converted to Christianity. Her conversion has been deemed “unacceptable”, however, and the case has now gone to trial, CSW reports.

CSW’s Sudan advocacy officer, who cannot be named for security reasons, said that since the military coup in Sudan last autumn, and the subsequent resignation of its civilian Prime Minister, there were concerns that the country was slipping back into the harsh regime of the previous authoritarian president, Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown in 2019 (News, 18 April 2019).

“What we saw is that there were beginning to be some openings, under the civilian-military partnership that preceded the coup, such as decriminalising apostasy and addressing some of the violations of the past.

“But now there are signs that things are going backwards, and there is a lot of interference again in the judicial system. Several senior civil servants who were part of the old regime have been reappointed.

“We don’t know what will happen to the couple. Under the old regime, if someone was found guilty of adultery, the penalty was 100 lashes.”

The army seized power last October when the country was just one month away from a transition to a civilian head of state. After the coup, a power-sharing agreement with a civilian Prime Minister was agreed, but there were public protests at the military takeover, and these were violently suppressed.

The civilian President Abdalla Hamdok resigned earlier this month, leaving the army in full control.

CSW’s founder president, Mervyn Thomas, said: “We are deeply concerned by the criminal prosecution of Ms Koko and Mr Kaffi, whose case highlights the fact that the failure to reform Sudan’s legal landscape has opened the door to legal harassment.

“We call for the immediate dismissal of criminal charges against this couple, and urge further legal reform to ensure that the right to freedom of religion or belief, including the right to change one’s religion or belief, is fully guaranteed to every Sudanese citizen. The fact that these cases are being prosecuted in the context of the military coup and a state of emergency illustrates the military’s objective of systematically obstructing and reversing the progressive advances made during the transitional period.”

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