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Sudan’s trial of pastors for ‘spying’ continues

The trial of four defendants, including two local pastors and a foreign Christian worker, accused of "spying" continued in Khartoum yesterday (26 Sep.), with the prosecutor presenting more "evidence".

The hearing against Rev. Hassan Taour, Rev. Kuwa Shamal (both ethnic Nuba), Czech aid worker Petr Jasek and Darfuri graduate Abdulmonem Abdumawla saw the prosecution presenting videos to back up charges, which include providing support for rebels in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains (in the South Kordofan region), sources close to the trial told World Watch Monitor.

The defence lawyers challenged the presented material’s relevance to the case, with the judge apparently agreeing and warning the prosecution to come better prepared, the sources added.

The hearing was adjourned until 17 Oct.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Jasek is charged with the propagation of false news. Along with Taour, Shamal and Abdumawla, he is accused of at least seven crimes – including waging war against the state – some of which carry the death penalty.

During an earlier hearing on 29 Aug., the prosecutor accused the defendants of highlighting alleged Christian suffering in war-ravaged areas of the country.

Between Dec. last year and the start of the trial, the four had mostly been held without charge, in violation of Sudan’s own law.

Following South Sudan’s independence in 2011, President Omar al-Bashir – wanted by the ICC for crimes including "genocide" – has reasserted Sudan as an Islamic state governed by Sharia. Pressure has been ratcheted up against Christians, including in the Nuba Mountains, an area adjacent to the now independent South.

According to Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List, Sudan is ranked 8th in a list of 50 countries where Christians come under the most pressure. The country has a rating of "extreme" and for the past two years has remained among the top 10 offenders.

Taour is suffering from ulcers, and is scheduled to see a doctor on Thursday, 29 Sep.

Jordanian writer killed after Facebook ‘blasphemy’

A Jordanian writer charged with offending Islam after sharing a satirical cartoon on his Facebook page has been killed.

Nahid Hattar was hit by three bullets outside the court in the capital, Amman, where he was standing trial, the BBC reported.

The cartoon shows Allah catering for the whims of a man joined by two black-eyed girls in bed. The man, who has a thick, unruly beard, asks Allah for more treats in "paradise".

It seems to draw on the concept of "houris", or black-eyed virgins, promised in the Islamic tradition among the rewards given by Allah to the "pious" (Suras 52:17-24, 55:54-74, 56:10-24).

Jordan, a country in the anti-Islamic State alliance, had filed the case against Hattar for offending Islam, through what media reports described as an anti-IS cartoon.

The country's highest official religious fatwa authority criticised Hattar for what it said was an "insult to the Divine Entity, Islam and religious symbols".

Hattar, born into Jordan’s small Christian minority but known for his left-wing secular views, had shared the cartoon on his Facebook page, prompting outrage in the predominantly Muslim country.

He said he had not meant to cause offence and wanted to expose "radical Islamists' view" of heaven.

He was outside the Palace of Justice court-house on Sunday (25 Sept.), having remained in custody for 15 days in August, when a "bearded imam" shot him dead.

Family and supporters of the assassinated writer said police did not shoot the attacker, while an ambulance took too much time to arrive.

In an interview by BBC World Service Newshour, Hattar’s son called for Jordan’s Prime Minister to resign, accusing the state of not doing enough to stop hostilities against his father ahead of the trial.

Charges of blasphemy have been levelled across different parts of the Muslim world, targeting members of minorities and liberals, for criticising, ridiculing or speaking out against ideas espoused by jihadists but not categorically disowned by representatives of Islam’s mainstream institutions.

DR Congo: 7 killed by suspected Islamist militants

A fresh attack in the volatile region of Beni, in eastern DR Congo, has left at least seven dead.

The night raid on 22 Sep., which targeted communities in Kasinga, about 5km from the town of Beni, was carried out by suspected Islamist militants from the ADF-NALU group, local sources told World Watch Monitor.

Dozens of properties were also burned down. An undetermined number of injured and displaced people have sought refuge in churches and other, relatively safe, areas of Beni.

Beni is a predominantly Christian area, as is most of  DRC, but Independent Catholic News reports that within a few years the number of Muslims in eastern DRC has risen from 1% to 10%.

ADF-NALU was originally rooted in a rebel movement to overthrow Uganda’s government and replace it with an Islamist fundamentalist state, but it was forced to re-locate over the border into DRC. For years now, the radical group has been trying to uproot Christians from north-east DRC through attacks, rape, looting, kidnap and murder – on an almost weekly basis.

In May, local civil society organisations wrote to Congolese President Joseph Kabila to denounce the ongoing killings, which, they said, had claimed 1,116 lives between October 2014 and May 2016. That’s an average of 60 killed per month, or two a day, points out their letter.

It says some 1,470 others were abducted, while 34,297 families were forcibly displaced or are now unaccounted for. There were also numerous cases of sexual violence against women and children.

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