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Court hearings of Christian women, South Sudanese pastors, continue

July 15 - 2015 KHARTOUM NORTH
Rev. Yat Michael Ruot and Rev. Peter Yein Reith (csw.org.uk)
Rev. Yat Michael Ruot and Rev. Peter Yein Reith (csw.org.uk)

The Public Order Court of Khartoum North on Tuesday fined a second Christian woman for wearing “inappropriate dress” in the court room. Another Khartoum court heard the testimony of a defence witness of two South Sudanese pastors charged with undermining the Constitution, espionage, and blasphemy.

She was told to pay SDG500 ($83), as happened too on 6 July, when the judge deemed the dress of another Christian student “indecent”, and, disregarding any due process, immediately sentenced her to a SDG500 fine or a month in prison.

One of the defence lawyers explained to Radio Dabanga that the Public Order Court judge convicted the woman under Article 152 of the Penal Code, for wearing an “obscene outfit”, and refused to hear the protests of the defence.

He said that the defence team will appeal the two sentences, and will also lodge a complaint to the head of the Sudanese Judiciary against the judge who, he said, violated the litigation procedures by adding charges by himself, and immediately deciding on the punishment.

In the evening of 25 June, a group of 12 young Christian Nuba women were detained by the Public Order Police for “wearing indecent outfits”, when they were leaving the Baptist church in El Izba, Khartoum North, after a religious ceremony. They wore trousers and skirts.

They were released on Friday, after ten of them had been charged under Article 152 of the 1990 Penal Code, which states that, “Whoever does in a public place an indecent act or an act contrary to public morals, or wears an obscene outfit, or contrary to public morals, or causing an annoyance to public feelings shall be punished with flogging, which may not exceed forty lashes or with fine or with both.”

Amnesty International launched an “Urgent Action” for the ten Christian women on 9 July, calling on the Sudanese authorities to drop the charges against them “immediately and unconditionally”.

‘Hostile witness’

On Tuesday too, the North Khartoum Criminal Court heard the testimony of a defence witness in the case, the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) raised against Rev. Yat Michael Ruot and Rev. David Yein Reith, of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church.

The South Sudanese pastors were visiting Khartoum, when they were detained by NISS officers in December and in January. Both were held incommunicado until 1 March, when they were charged by the NISS of offending Islam, punishable by lashing, and undermining the constitutional order and espionage, which carry the death penalty or life imprisonment.

“The judge dismissed the objections raised by the prosecutor about the background of the defence witness, Brig. Abdelaziz Khaled, who is a member of the opposition, and thus would be hostile towards the NISS”, defence lawyer Muhanad Mustafa told reporters in Khartoum.

He said that Khaled would be heard in his capacity as a military and security expert, and that he would testify under oath. The court accepted his testimony, noting that it is a criminal case governed by law, and has nothing to do with the government, or with the opposition.

According to the defence witness, all the maps of Sudan’s states found in the personal computers of the pastors are publicly available on the internet, and have no link with espionage or whatsoever, as the data came from ordinary websites, not military ones.

The pastors themselves were questioned on 2 July, regarding documents found on their computers, including church reports, maps showing the population and topography of Khartoum, Christian literature, and a NISS study.

Both priests said they did not know how the NISS document appeared on their computers. They further asked the judge whether it is illegal to access Google and get information about Sudan including maps from the internet.

On 9 July, the EU Parliament passed a resolution, in which it condemned the detention of the South Sudanese pastors, and the young Christian women in the Sudanese capital.

The EU also denounced the threats against church leaders, intimidation of Christian communities, and destruction of church property, which continued “at an accelerated pace in Sudan after the secession of South Sudan in 2011”.


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