Five months since his initial detention, Sudan’s intelligence agency has re-arrested a local pastor.
Rev. Kuwa Shamal joins at least two more Christian leaders in prison, awaiting charges that could carry the death penalty. He was re-arrested on May 24 by members of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) in Khartoum, reported Christian advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).
Together with fellow Sudan Church of Christ (SCC) pastor Hassan Abduraheem Taour and a third Christian identified as Abdulmonem Abdumawla Issa Abdumawla, the newly jailed pastor is expected to face serious charges including espionage and undermining state security.
Rev. Shamal, who is the SCC head of missions, was first detained for three days on 18 Dec. He later had to report daily to the NISS for several hours and for no obvious reason – a routine lifted in mid-January but re-imposed a month later.
Both Shamal and Taour are from the Nuba people group, native to the border region with the now independent South Sudan and among the groups resisting ethnic and religious rule from Khartoum’s Arab Islamist regime.
Meanwhile, according to local sources, the government of Sudan has bombed a Catholic primary school in the Nuba Mounatins of its South Kordofan state.
A local bishop condemend the attack which struck St. Vincent Ferrer Primary School on May 25, describing it as an example of “grave violation of human rights”.
Rev. Taour has been in detention without access to legal representation since the NISS arrested him from his home near Khartoum on 18 Dec., 2015.
On 10 May, the NISS released the 36-year-old leader of the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, Telahoon (Telal) Nogosi Rata, after nearly half a year in detention. Despite his release from Khartoum’s Kober prison, Rata’s file remains with the Attorney General, who could yet decide to press charges.
Even before Shamal’s re-arrest, sources requesting anonymity reported that Rev. Taour would face several serious charges relating to “undermining national security,” charges Sudan has previously used after prolonged detentions of Christians.
Meanwhile, on 23 May, the government announced its intention to continue its demolition of a church compound, MEC said. Part of the land on which the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church sits was illegally sold by a committee instituted by the government. Subsequently, the compound was partially demolished by court order.
According to Sudanese law, 45 days from arrest a detainee should either appear before court or be released, a rule ignored in both Taour’s and Rata’s cases.
A number of other Christian leaders face restrictions, including Ayub Tilyab, Yagoub Naway (both SCC pastors), Philemon Hassan, and Yamani Abraha of Khartoum El Izba Baptist Church – all have been alternately arrested, released, and then made subject to daily NISS reporting.
It is not the first time Khartoum has detained Christians unlawfully, before failing to prove serious charges later brought against them in courts.
In August 2015, Khartoum released two South Sudanese pastors, whom it had accused of “spying.” Yat Michael and Peter Yen were in prison for eight and seven months, respectively.
Mariam Ibrahim, a Sudanese Christian accused of apostasy, was released in June 2014 after a global outcry.
Ibrahim was initially sentenced to death for apostasy and flogging for “adultery” (being a Christian man’s wife). She left the country after a six-month incarceration, during which she gave birth to her baby girl, while shackled to the floor. Her 20-month-old son, Martin, was held with her in prison.
According to the 2016 Open Doors’ World Watch List, Sudan is ranked 8th in a list of 50 countries where Christians are under the most pressure. The predominantly Muslim country has a rating of “extreme” and for the past two years has remained among the top 10 offenders.