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Christian pastor acquitted in Sudan

Wed 06 Jan 2016
By Hannah Tooley

An anti-persecution charity has reported that a Christian pastor in Sudan has been acquitted of charges against him.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) says that Pastor Hafiz Mengisto, senior minister of the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, has been acquitted of obstructing a public servant from performing the duties of his office.

Mohamed Mustafa, the lawyer for the church, was also charged with the same crime but was acquitted as well.

The trials began in December and the court accepted that the prosecution had failed to follow due procedure when initiating a criminal case against a registered lawyer before dismissing it.

Pastor Mengisto and Mr Mustafa were arrested and charged in July 2015 after police officers came to Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church with a court order to demolish a building on the church's property.

CSW has warned that there has been a crackdown on Christian places of worship in Sudan in recent months.

Sarah Smith, from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, told Premier: "The case against them was weak really, they were arrested, we would say 'unjustly', whilst they were trying to correct some police officers who were executing a court order incorrectly.

"What their case highlights is persistence by the Sudanese regime to target Christians - Pastor Mengisto was beaten whilst in police custody - he required treatment for his head and his ear after he was released.

"People being arbitrarily detained for weeks now and it's concerning that the state has an obligation - if you're arrested to be charged with a crime and for the legal proceedings to start, here we're seeing that they're just being held."

National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) agents also arrested a Christian activist and two religious leaders in Sudan at the end of 2015.

Talahon Nigosi Kassa Ratta, an activist and member of the Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and Reverends Kwa Shamal and Hassan Abduraheem of the Sudan Church of Christ were arrested December 2015.

They remain in an unknown location detained without charge.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "We welcome the court's decision to acquit Pastor Mengisto and dismiss the case against Mr Mustafa.

"However, we remain deeply concerned by the State's repressive actions against religious minorities in Sudan, as exemplified by the arrest and detention of Mr Ratta and Reverends Shamal and Abduraheem. #

"We call for their immediate and unconditional release. Their detention without charge is in clear violation of their right to liberty and security of person as detailed in article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sudan is a party and we appeal to the international community, and in particular to the African Union, to hold Sudan to its obligations under international law by pressing for their immediate release."

Listen to Premier's Hannah Tooley speak to Sarah Smith here:

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