Sudanese authorities have been keeping two Christian pastors in an unknown location since mid-December, with no official charges yet filed against them.
On 12. Dec., members of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) visited the family home of Telahoon Nogosi Kassa Rata, a leader of the Fellowship of University Christian Students and a leader of Khartoum North Evangelical Church, sources close to the detainees said.
Telahoon (also known as Telal) Rata was told to “report” to the local NISS office north of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. “He went to the NISS office behind the airport at al-Mashtel the next day, and he has been detained ever since,” the sources, requesting anonymity, said.
Meanwhile, two pastors from the Sudan Church of Christ, a denomination whose members originate predominantly from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan, were arrested by the NISS on 18 December.
“The latest cases are representative of a much larger campaign by Sudan’s government to eradicate Christianity.”
Rev. Kuwa Shamal, (the head of a church committee) was taken from his home in the district of Bahri, north of Khartoum, while Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour (the church’s vice-moderator) was detained while at home in Omdurman, a city across the Nile, west of the capital.
Shamal was released three days later, but was required to continue to report daily to the NISS until this formal requirement was cancelled on 16 Jan.
Both Rata and Taour remain in custody in an unknown location, with no access for either family or lawyers.
Rev. Rata’s parents were allowed to visit him only once, five days after his arrest, family said. They met with him in Khartoum’s al-Kober prison.
Since then they have tried four times to visit him again, but each time they were told to apply for permission to visit, only to be told a week later their request had been denied, confirmed the family.
Thirty-six-year-old Christian worker Telal Rata was not at home the night the NISS agents came, 12 December. But some of his belongings were confiscated at his parents’ home, where he lived.
A lawyer has asked to see both Rata and Taour, but was informed by the prosecution that both are still being held by the NISS and no access to them will be given until the NISS hands them over for prosecution.
No details are known of the Christians’ legal status or physical condition, while they are being held incommunicado.
Rev. Taour’s lawyer has written to the Sudanese Human Rights Council to ask for help in bringing his client’s case to a court of law. In a letter to the Sudan HRC judge, he explained that the National Security was denying the pastors their basic rights by denying their lawyers access. He has received no reply.
The Sudan Council of Churches has also written a letter to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Omdurman Government Minister and the Security Office to appeal for access to Rev. Taour and “other Christians”, but again there has been no reply.
According to Sudanese law, 45 days after arrest a detained individual should either be presented before court or released. However, neither of these actions has occurred in Rata’s or Taour’s case.
Initially Rata’s detention was suggested to be “on religious charges”, but sources close to the case have hinted the Christian activist is now being investigated for espionage, a charge Sudan has eventually resorted to before, after prolonged detentions of Christians.
In August 2015, Khartoum released two South Sudanese pastors whom it accused of “spying”. Pastors Yat Michael and Peter Yen were in prison for eight and seven months, respectively.
“The latest cases are representative of a much larger campaign by Sudan’s government to eradicate Christianity,” Sudanese religious freedom activist Kamal Fahmi told World Watch Monitor.
“Since the secession of South Sudan [in July 2011], Khartoum has intensified the war in Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains [both areas of known Christian presence], and the indiscriminate harassment and arrests of church leaders and active church members,” said Fahmi, who heads an advocacy website, ‘Set My People Free’, calling for the repeal of Islam’s blasphemy and apostasy laws.
“Foreign Christian workers have been deported. Sudan has stopped the import of Christian literature and scriptures, while confiscating most of the Christian literature in the country and closing the only Christian bookshop in the capital, Khartoum,” Fahmi said.
“Torture and arrest of converts from Islam is also commonplace,” he added.
Mariam Ibrahim, a Sudanese Christian accused of being an apostate from Islam, was released in June 2014 after a global outcry. Earlier in 2014, Ibrahim was sentenced to death for apostasy and flogging for “adultery”(marriage to a South Sudanese Christian). During her six-month incarceration, she gave birth to her baby girl while shackled to the floor, while her 20-month-old son, Martin, was kept with her in prison.