Trial against South Sudanese priests delayed

Two priests from South Sudan still wait for their trial to start after more than five months in detention in Khartoum’s prison for ‘undermining the constitutional order’.

The trial procedures of the two held South Sudanese priests in Khartoum North was postponed by the criminal court on Tuesday, and is scheduled to resume on 31 May.

Lawyer Osman El Mubarak of the defence team told El Taghyeer newspaper on Tuesday that the court questioned a detective about a CD he had submitted, in which a sermon by one of the priests was shown. Officers of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) allegedly have the data. The priests are accused of inciting tribal conflict, according to El Mubarak.

Rev. Yat Michael Ruot and Rev. David Yein Reith of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of South Sudan were detained last December and January. On Monday, both priests started a hunger strike to protest against their detention, that has lasted for about five months. Ruot and Reith were led before the public prosecutor in March, but have not been brought to court until now.

Ruot was detained during a visit to Khartoum after he preached in the Khartoum North Church on 21 December. Members of the security service asked him to accompany them, without providing any explanation. The next day, some of his clothes and personal belongings were taken from his house by security officers.

Rev. Reith was detained in Khartoum on 11 January, when he responded to summons to report to an office of the security service. According to Reith’s relatives, his detention may be related to a letter he handed to the Office of Religious Affairs in Khartoum to inquire about the fate of Rev. Ruot.

According to lawyer El Mubarak, the NISS filed criminal charges against the two religious leaders under Article 50, for undermining the constitutional order, which is punishable by death. In addition to Articles 26, 51, 53, 62 and 125.

In January, before the charges were filed against Ruot and Reith, Amnesty International urged the Sudanese authorities to disclose their whereabouts.