Christian activist released after 5 months
12 May 2016
Talahon Nigosi Kassa Ratta, a Christian activist and member of the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, was released from prison on 10 May.
Mr Ratta was arrested in Khartoum by National Intelligence and Security Service agents (NISS) on 14 December 2015. No reason was given for his arrest and for the majority of his detention Mr Ratta was not permitted any visits from his family or legal representatives. On 10 May, NISS agents contacted Mr Ratta’s father requesting that he collect his son from their offices. Mr Ratta is reportedly in good health.
Reverend Hassan Abduraheem of the Sudan Church of Christ, who was arrested shortly after Mr Ratta, remains in detention. On 9 May he was transferred into the custody of the Attorney General and has been informed a criminal case is being filed against him. The charges that Rev Abduraheem is facing have yet to be confirmed, but his legal representatives have been informed that they will include security crimes, which carry the death penalty.
Meanwhile, the Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church continues to face government interference in its internal affairs, specifically concerning its land and buildings committee. In March 2013, an illegally-convened lands and buildings committee was recognised by the government body responsible for religious affairs in Sudan as the official group charged with administering the SEPC's affairs and was subsequently involved in the unlawful sale of church property to Muslim businessmen. A court order reinstating the legitimate committee, chaired by senior church member Mr Rafat Obid, continues to be disregarded. In April 2016, the illegally-convened committee elected new members, renewed the terms of older ones and was recognised once more by the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Guidance as the group with authority to administrate on behalf of the denomination.
On 8 May, Mr Rafat Obid was arrested and charged with impersonation, forgery and criminal misappropriation. He has been released on bail and is awaiting trial. The decision to charge him came from the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Guidance.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “We welcome the decision to release Mr Ratta; however we continue to be concerned by his prolonged detention without charge. Mr Ratta’s case shows the power that NISS wields within Sudan to detain private individuals without any legal recourse, which it is currently using to harass and detain members of the Christian community and civil society. We are calling for a review of the agency’s powers of arrest and detention and for the criminal proceedings against Rev. Abduraheem and Mr Rafat Obid, which have no basis, to be dropped. Furthermore we call on the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Guidance to overturn its decision to recognise the illegally-convened committee of the Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church and to end its interference in the church’s affairs.”