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South Sudanese pastors face death sentences for encouraging Sudan church


13 May 2015

In a hearing at the Khartoum Bahri Criminal Court in Khartoum, capital of Sudan, Pastors Yat Michael and Peter Yein Reith were formally charged on 4 May of several offences after they encouraged believers at a church in Sudan who have been enduring government pressure. Two of the sentences carry the death sentence or life imprisonment.

Destruction in Khartoum, capital of Sudan, 2013
Destruction in Khartoum, capital of Sudan, 2013

Charged with undermining the constitutional system, waging war against the state, disclosure and receipt of official information or documents, arousing feelings of discontent among regular forces, breach of public peace, and offences relating to insulting religious beliefs, the court has announced that the next hearing in the criminal process will take place on 14 May. Two of the charges listed against the pastors (namely, undermining the constitutional system and waging war against the state) carry the death sentence or life in prison.

Arrested on 14 December last year, Pastor Yat Michael was permitted no contact with his family and no access to legal advice until 1 March. When Pastor Peter Yein took a letter to the Religious Affairs Office in Khartoum enquiring about the whereabouts of Pastor Yat, he too was arrested.

Both pastors are South Sudanese, but it was when Pastor Yat encouraged the believers at a church in Khartoum when he was visiting the city, that he invoked anger from local authorities. The church in Khartoum has suffered significant pressure from government authorities over land rights, resulting in parts of the church property being destroyed in December last year.