Reverend Yat Michael and Reverend Peter Reith, Sudan
LATEST: the pastors have left the country safely and are united with their families.
South Sudanese pastors Reverend Yat Michael and Reverend Peter Reith were in prison in Sudan. They faced six serious criminal charges – two of which carried the death penalty if the pastors were convicted.
Reverend Yat was arrested last December after speaking at the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, which has been embroiled in a land dispute with private investors who are supported by the government. Sudanese security officials say they were offended by his speech encouraging the church to stand firm. Reverend Peter was detained less than a month later. They were held in chains, in solitary confinement, for three weeks.
This isn’t an isolated case. Across Sudan, religious minorities are facing increasing oppression.
1 September 2015
The two South Sudanese pastors you’ve been praying and campaigning for have been reunited with their families and are now in another country. They’re beginning the process of rebuilding life for themselves and their families.
Thank you so much for all you’ve done over the last few months to campaign and pray for their release.
Please continue to pray:
- Pray for Rev Michael, Rev Reith and their families as they rebuild their lives and consider their options;
- Ask God to grant them and their families complete emotional, mental and physical healing from their traumatic experiences;
- Continue to thank God for their release, and the way in which he has looked after them so far;
- Please keep praying for the lawyers who represented them, as they continue to work on other religious freedom cases in Sudan.
10 August 2015
An appeal for the lifting of a travel ban imposed against the two South Sudanese clergymen failed after it transpired the ban had been imposed by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
On 9 August lawyers representing Reverends Yat Michael and Peter Reith returned to court in Khartoum to petition for the ban to be lifted, but were informed the court had no authority to rule on the issue. The lawyers will be meeting with NISS on 10 August in an effort to secure a lifting of the ban.
The renewed involvement of the NISS may indicate fresh complications in the clergymen's case. Following the initial arrests of Reverends Michael and Reith by the NISS in December 2014 and January 2015 respectively, both were held incommunicado and without charge until 1 March, when they were transferred to the custody of the Attorney General and subsequently subjected to excessive charges. NISS agents who attended the pastors' final hearing on 5 August were reported to have been visibly angered by their release on time served, and to have remonstrated with the judge.
5 August 2015
BREAKING: We've just heard the pastors have been freed! More details to follow, and meanwhile you can read our press release. We'll update this page as soon as we know more - you can also get updates on our Facebook www.facebook.com/cswuk and Twitter www.twitter.com/csw_uk
17 July 2015
On Tuesday the pastors’ defence team called two witnesses. One witness, an ex-army general, testified that the evidence presented by the prosecution – supposedly classified information that the pastors were alleged to have leaked – was not in fact classified. The security and espionage charges (which potentially carry the death penalty) therefore have no basis.
The next hearing is scheduled for 23 July, when the judge will hear closing statements. We’re expecting a verdict on 5 August.
The pastors are still being denied access to their legal team, despite being told they would be allowed 15 minutes with them before the hearing on Tuesday. We’re really concerned at this ongoing denial of access. And since being moved to a high security prison in June, Rev Michael and Rev Reith’s families haven’t been allowed to visit them, despite repeated requests.
15 July 2015
The defence team closed their case after presenting two witnesses at the hearing on 14 July, The next hearing is scheduled for 23 July, when the judge will hear closing statements. The verdict is expected on 5 August.
The pastors were once again denied access to their legal team ahead of the hearing, despite an earlier direction from the judge that they would be allowed 15 minutes with their lawyers. At the last hearing on 2 July, the judge permitted the defence team 15 minutes with the pastors in order to prepare their case. The pastors’ lack of access to their families and legal team is an ongoing concern.
Since being transferred to Kober High Security Prison in June, the pastors have been denied access to their lawyers. Their chief counsel (the head of their legal team), Mohaned Mustafa, was arrested on 1 July while representing the church, after police arrived to demolish a section of the church’s property. The pastors have been told they will have only 15 minutes to meet with their legal team before the next hearing.