Despite international human rights law which guarantees the right to freedom of religion, and the right to express that religion in both private and public, Pastor Michael Yat Rotu and Pastor Peter Yen Reith were held in separate cells in the National Intelligence Security Service Prison in Kober in Sudan, charged with espionage and blasphemy.
Due to advocacy and the persistent work of various International Advocates, such as those at the American Centre for Law and Justice, Pastors Michael and Peter have just been released. The Pastors were on trial in Sudan, charged with espionage and blasphemy – because of their faith.
Pastor Michael was arrested December 21 when he visited Khartoum from Juba to preach at the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church. Pastor Peter was detained the next month when he was returning from a prayer meeting at the El Jereif West Bible School in Khartoum.
Initially detained without charge in December 2014 and again in January, Pastor Michael Ruot and Pastor Peter Reith were charged with undermining the constitutional code, waging war against the state, and spying. Under Sudanese law, these offenses carry the possibility of the death penalty or life in prison, according to their lawyer.
They also stand charged with inciting organised forces to complain and assaulting religious beliefs, which also carry prison sentences, if convicted.
Despite their lawyer being imprisoned a month ago, and despite a compromise of due process within their trial, and despite being held in an Intelligence prison, notorious for its interrogation techniques, while in prison, the pastor’s faith remained unshaken.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies claims that the charges are based solely on their religious convictions and criticism of the ruling party, suggesting that the trial is intended to warn other Christian leaders in Sudan to refrain from criticising government policies.
According to sources, Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), reportedly demanded $6,000 for each pastor to be released.
There have been various advocacy organisations involved in the and the advocacy of the two Pastors. The American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ) who had direct contact with the Pastors, stated that the release of the two Pastors ‘is a monumental victory in the fight against Christian persecution globally’. The ACLJ was engaged in what they have called an ‘aggressive global advocacy campaign’ on behalf of the Pastors, including gaining over 220,000 signatures petitioning for the release of the Pastors.
Unfortunately, the safety of the Pastors and the safety of their families have not yet been secured.
The ACLJ continues to work with the Pastors to ensure their ongoing safety. Pastors Michael and and their families are at great risk. They can’t return home. They can’t get to safety.
And now, as with Mariam Ibraheem last year, the Sudanese Government are not allowing the Pastors and their families to leave Sudan.
The ACLC has taken immediate, aggressive action, sending critical legal letters to Sudan, working with their contacts on the ground, and continue to work with Christian mom Mariam Ibraheem – who ACLJ helped free from death row in Sudan last year.
This is a good news story, and clear evidence that advocacy in partnership with international pressure in the form of legal advocacy, petitions and credible legal representation does work to bring about justice in places where justice is often compromised.
Sudan has responded to international pressure before, and they have recently released the pastors from prison and cleared them of their false charges, but now we need to raise the pressure again.
These Christian pastors will not be truly free until they are safely out of Sudan. Stand with us as we demand Sudan let them go.
Please continue to partner with Advocacy and Aid organisations who seek to stand with the persecuted, by putting international pressure on governments – holding them accountable.
United we stand – for all minorities!