Sudanese church minister acquitted
5 Jan 2016
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has learned that Pastor Hafiz Mengisto, senior minister of the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church was acquitted of obstructing a public servant from performing the duties of his office on 29 December 2015. Mohaned Mustafa, lawyer for the church who was charged with the same crime had his case dismissed on 23 December 2015.
Mr Mustafa and Pastor Mengisto’s trial began on 14 December 2015 at the Khartoum Bahri Criminal Court. On 23 December, the court accepted that the prosecution had failed to follow procedure when initiating a criminal case against a registered lawyer and dismissed the case against Mr Mustafa. The case against Pastor Mengisto continued until 29 December, when the court ruled that the church leader had not committed a crime.
Pastor Mengisto and Mr Mustafa were arrested and charged on 1 July 2015 after police officers arrived at Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church with a court order to demolish a building on the church’s property. Pastor Mengisto sustained injuries to his head and ear while in police custody and required medical attention upon his release.
The trial of Mr Mustafa and Pastor Mengisto occurred in the midst of a crackdown against Christians in Sudan. During December 2015, National Intelligence) and Security Service (NISS) agents arrested a Christian activist and two religious leaders. Talahon Nigosi Kassa Ratta, an activist and member of the Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church (SEPC), was arrested on 14 December 2015 in Khartoum and Reverends Kuwa Shamal and Hassan Abduraheem of the Sudan Church of Christ were arrested on 19 December 2015. While Mr Ratta’s parents were able to visit him in Kober Men’s Prison at the end of December 2015, he has since been moved to an unknown location and remains detained without charge. Reverends Shamal and Abduraheem are also being held in unknown locations 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.”