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Apostasy case transferred to criminal court

19 Aug 2022

The case of four men charged with apostasy in Zalingei, Central Darfur, has been transferred to the criminal court. The first hearing is scheduled for 30 August.

Badar Haroun Abdul-Jabbar, Mohamed Haroun Abdul-Jabbar, Tariq Aref Abdallah and Mortada Ismael Yousef were charged and released on bail on 6 July under Article 126 of the 1991 criminal code, despite the fact it had been amended in 2020 to remove the crime of apostasy.

During the civilian-led transitional period, which began in July 2019 and was ended by a military coup in October 2021, the government led by former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok removed apostasy from the criminal statute books. It went on to pass legislation that made it a criminal offence to accuse any person of apostasy.

The four men were initially arrested on 24 June 2022 in Zalingei, Central Darfur. They were released after being questioned by the intelligence police about their religious identity and having their personal belongings confiscated. They were also subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.

On 28 June the men were detained again and taken to the main prison in Zalingei, where they were held for several days. On 3 July they were brought before the prosecutor, who asked them to renounce their Christian faith and agree not to pray, share their faith or participate in any activities that would identify them as Christians, otherwise they would face the death penalty. The men refused and were charged with apostasy prior to being released on bail on 6 July.

Since their release the men have had to flee their home due to threats from extremists and an attack on the church where they worshiped. They had formed a church which was authorised by the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments during the transitional period, and which had operated without hinderance until June 2022.

Following the 25 October 2021 military coup, confidential sources informed CSW that church leaders living in camps for internally displaced people were threatened by officials who told them they would face apostasy charges if they continued to meet to pray. When the leaders protested, citing the legal changes made under the transitional administration, they were informed that the coup had changed the legal situation.

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW is deeply concerned by the charges levelled against these men and by the decision to transfer this case to the criminal court. The public nature of the hearing will further endanger the lives of four men who have already had to flee their home due to violence by religious extremist. The decriminalisation of apostasy was one of the limited positive steps undertaken by the transitional authorities prior to the 2021 coup d' état. It is unclear on what legal grounds these charges have been logged; however, it is indicative of the regressive steps taken on freedom of religion or belief, and emblematic of the worsening situation of human rights in Sudan in the aftermath of the coup. We call for an immediate cancellation of the charges against this group and an urgent review of the levelling of apostasy charges by law enforcement and prosecutors since its decriminalisation. We call on the international community to urgently raise these cases directly with Sudan’s military leaders at all opportunities.”



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