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EU, Amnesty Int. call for release of Christian detainees in Sudan

July 12 - 2015 BRUSSELS / NEW YORK
Women protest at the Evangelical church in Khartoum North against the confiscation of the church premises, 19 September 2014 (file photo)
Women protest at the Evangelical church in Khartoum North against the confiscation of the church premises, 19 September 2014 (file photo)

The EU Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday in which it condemned the detention of two South Sudanese pastors, and 12 young Christian women in the Sudanese capital. It also denounced the threats against Church leaders, intimidation of Christian communities, and destruction of church property, continuing “at an accelerated pace in Sudan after the secession of South Sudan in 2011”.

The resolution called for the release of the two priests of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, Rev. Yat Michael Ruot and Rev. David Yein Reith, who were held in Khartoum North last December and January. They are accused of undermining the constitutional system (Article 50) and espionage (53) of the Sudanese 1990 Penal Code, which carry the death penalty, and blasphemy (125) which may be punishable by whipping.

The Sudanese authorities are to drop the charges against ten Christian women students for wearing “indecent dress”. They belong to the group of 12 young Nuba women from South Kordofan, who were detained on 25 June by the Public Order Police, after a religious festivity at the Baptist church in Khartoum North. They wore trousers and skirts.

The women were released the next day, ten of them on bail, after they had been charged under article 152 of the Penal Code, which reads: “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.”

The EU Parliament also condemned the attempts to confiscate and demolish parts of the Evangelical Church complex in Khartoum North, a process that started in September last year.

The European legislators demanded that the “Sudanese government – in line with universal human rights – repeal any legal provisions that penalise or discriminate against individuals for their religious beliefs or for changing their religion or beliefs or for inducing others to change their religion or beliefs, especially when cases of apostasy, heterodoxy or conversion are punishable by death”.

The EU expressed its grave concerns too about the increase in the repression of members of the opposition,pointing to the decision of the Omdurman court of 6 July, sentencing Mastour Ahmed Mohamed, vice-president of the Sudanese Congress Party, and two other leading members of that party to 20 lashes, that was immediately carried out.

Furthermore, the EU Parliament expressed its support for the efforts being made, notably by the UN, the EU, the AU, and
the Sudan Troika (Norway, the UK and the USA), “to reach a negotiated solution to the situation in Sudan, and support the endeavours of civil society and the opposition parties to promote an inclusive peace process”.

‘Urgent Action’

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

Amnesty also pointed to the conviction of Ferdous El Tom (19). She appeared in the Public Order Court in Khartoum North on 6 July, "wearing another dress deemed indecent by the judge who, disregarding any due process, immediately sentenced her to a fine of 500 Sudanese pounds ($83) or a month in prison”.

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